Skip to main content

Full text of "An Octave"

See other formats

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non- commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at jhttp : //books . qooqle . com/ 

32101 063883043 

Citaatir at 

y&mxmntt Jj, puttier 
OUasss of 00 


by Google 


by Google 



by Google 


jack's FATHER 



by Google 

Digitized by UOOQ IC 


PAGE 147. 

Digitized by UOOQ IC 

' '.. / * 

Digitized by UOOQ IC 


by Google 


W. x E. A NORRIS* 







by Google 


by Google 


Of these stories " A Preset of the Second Empire " 
appeared originally in The Graphic, and " Citizens of 
the World " and « A Daughter of the Hills " in The 
Illustrated London News. The remaining five are 
reprinted from Longman's Magazine and the Combill 
Magazine by the kind permission of the respective 

W. E. N. 



^ 4 A Digitized by GoOgk 


by Google 


Miser Morgan 

The Tenant of the Shag Rock • 
The First Lord and the Last Lady 
A Daughter of the Hills • 

Citizens of the World . • 

A PreVet of the Second Empire • 
In Good Faith 
Prince Coresco's Duel 








by Google 


by Google 


44 IT'S an inexcusable thing, I know," said Lord 
I St Ronan, 44 to dine with a man and then take 
advantage of his hospitality to pester him for a 
cheque ; but then again, you see, if one don't ask, 
one don't get, and unless a few more subscribers 
come forward to help us out with the funds of 
the institution that I was telling you about, 1 do 
believe we shall have to wind up the whole con- 
cern. So I'm venturing to appeal to one or two 

rich men, like yourself, Denison " 

44 Mercy upon us ! " interrupted the entertainer 
of this eminent and philanthropic nobleman; "is 
it possible that your heart and your conscience 
allow you to sit smiling there and call me a rich 
man? My dear fellow, I have the deepest sym- 
pathy with Abandoned Orphans and Destitute 
Cats and all the other subjects of your generous 
benevolence; but you might bear in mind that I 
myself am a landowner and a member of Parlia- 
ment. Surely that is tantamount to saying that 
my account is always and inevitably overdrawn! 
Now, just behind you, if you will screw your 


by Google 


head round for a moment, you will see a man 
who really is rich. Why not give him a chance 
to save his soul, instead of applying to the victim 
of pitiless tenants and constituents ? " 

The dining-room of the club in which the above 
colloquy took place was invariably graced at that 
hour of the day by the presence of the elderly 
gentleman at whom Lord St Ronan hastened to 
throw an eager, inquiring glance; but his lord- 
ship's countenance fell as soon as he recognised 
the solitary diner. 

"Oh, I'm afraid that's no use," said he des- 
pondently ; u isn't that the fellow whom you call 
Miser Morgan ? I remember being introduced to 
him on one occasion and asking him for a small 
donation to the Open Spaces Society. He was 
very rude indeed; he said he would see me and 
the Society dismissed into infinite space first." 

"And you allowed yourself to be discouraged 
by such a mild little rebuff as that ? Dear me ! 
My experience of you would have led me to give 
you credit for being a more sturdy beggar. Now, 
I'll tell you what, St Ronan ; if you can manage to 
extract ten pounds from Morgan to-night, I'll give 
you a fiver to add to it. There's a fair offer for 

" It's an uncommonly safe offer, or you wouldn't 
make it," growled the philanthropist. " Well, one 


by Google 


can but try ; it will be a grand triumph for me if I 

"And you have such a persuasive way with 

Lord St Ronan caressed his bushy beard. He 
flattered himself that he had rather a persuasive 
manner, and the bagging of subscriptions meant to 
him what the bagging of driven grouse or rocket- 
ing pheasants meant to his companion. 

"I'll tackle your Morgan in the smoking-room 
presently," he said. u 1 suppose we shall find him 
there after dinner ? " 

"Nothing can be more certain — old Morgan's 
habits are as regular as the clock. Dinner every 
evening at eight; one cigar, which with careful 
management can be made to last him till half-past 
ten ; then home to his rooms, where I expect he 
counts his gold till bedtime. But there'll be no 
sleep for him to-night, poor chap! because of 
course he'll be ten pounds short." 

Neither by ten pounds, ten shillings, nor even 
ten pence, however, was the tale of Mr Morgan's 
wealth likely to be incomplete ; and Mr Denison, 
feeling very confident of that, finished his dinner 
in peace. 

Meanwhile, the subject of his rather unflattering 
remarks had astounded the waiter by doing an 
absolutely unprecedented thing. He had ordered 


by Google 


a glass of the club port (price sixpence, no less) 
with the dry biscuit which represented his dessert, 
and now, leaning back in his chair, he was slowly 
sipping that generous fluid while he gazed out of 
the window at the passers-by in darkening Pall 
Mall. He was a small and very spare man, whose 
clean-shaven face and strongly marked features had 
earned for him the sobriquet of Beauty Morgan 
somewhere about the period of the Crimean war. 
But that was long ago, and he had since acquired 
the less complimentary and more appropriate nick- 
name which serves as title to this brief sketch. 
No more was he remembered in the Guards ; the 
friends whom he had formerly entertained so 
hospitably at his old place in Surrey were for 
the most part dead and gone; the place itself 
bad been let for many years, and if its owner 
was not ruined he chose to pretend that he was 
so. He set down his glass, with a sigh which 
might have expressed either satisfaction or regret, 
and betook himself to the smoking-room, where he 
caused another club servant to start visibly by 
selecting a shilling cigar. 

But this was nothing to what happened when 
Lord St Ronan strolled up to claim acquaintance 
with him and said, with serene audacity, " Now, 
Mr Morgan, I want ten sovereigns out of you, 
please. You can't offer me less. Just run your 


by Google 


eye over this list and you'll see that we are all 
putting our best foot foremost, though we are 
most of us already subscribers — which you are 

The little old man took the paper handed to 
him and adjusted his pince-nez, while a faint smile 
flickered over his thin lips. 

44 A very excellent object," he muttered; 44 I am 
glad to be able to contribute something towards its 
support. I believe I have a couple of five-pound 
notes in my pocket; so you can write 4 paid' against 
my name." 

It was in this most unexpected way that poor 
Mr Denison became an involuntary benefactor to 
persons who had no sort of claim upon him, while 
a rumour speedily gained ground that old Miser 
Morgan was either about to die or had gone off 
his head. 

But Mr Morgan's head remained in its customary 
condition of shrewd capability upon his shoulders, 
and he hoped that he was not going to die yet 
awhile. Not, at least, until Dick should have had 
time to get home from South Africa. It had been 
absurd and childish, of course, to take that well- 
meaning idiot St Ronan's breath away by letting 
him have ten pounds for the asking ; but when one 
has scraped and saved for half a lifetime, when one 
has submitted without a murmur to universal con- 


by Google 


tempt and obloquy, and when the last of those 
accursed mortgages has just been paid off, one is 
surely entitled, for once, to taste again the half- 
forgotten pleasure of playing the fool with one's 
ready cash. Yes ; the last of the mortgages had 
been paid off, and the lease was out, and Mr 
Morgan might, if it so pleased him, return forth- 
with to Ridge End, there to end his days, as he 
had begun them, in the enjoyment of a fine old 
house and a sufficient income. But habit, which 
reconciles us to everything, deprives us also of 
certain capacities for enjoyment, and it was not on 
his own account that this dogged and slightly 
narrow-minded old fellow was now rubbing his 
hands. London lodgings and the club were good 
enough for him; for close upon a quarter of a 
century he had neither mounted a horse nor fired 
a gun ; it would be out of the question for him 
to revert to the tastes of a country squire. 
But he said to himself that he would live again 
in the person of his son, who was young, 
strong, a keen sportsman, and who, it might be 
hoped, had learnt wisdom in the hard school of 

Of hard schooling poor Dick, it had to be con- 
fessed, had suffered no lack, and the old man, who 
was sitting down in his dingy lodgings to write a 
letter to the exile, felt something like a twinge of 


by Google 


compunction as he thought of bygone years and 
bygone encounters. But what would you have? 
We grow old, we repent too late of our past 
follies, we see those who have inherited our tem- 
perament preparing to follow our evil example, and 
we can but use such methods as experience has 
suggested to us to save them from themselves. 
Pleading and preaching are useless; swift, sharp 
punishment is the only argument to which young 
blood will yield ; he who holds the reins and the 
whip must use both, or else he may as well throw 
them away. So, at least, Mr Morgan, who had 
himself been a spoilt child, had believed, and upon 
that principle he had acted. By renouncing all 
save the bare necessaries of life, he had contrived 
to send his son to Eton and Oxford ; but he had 
never been tender with the boy, he had kept him 
upon a ridiculously insufficient allowance of pocket- 
money, and had sternly forbidden him under any 
circumstances to owe a penny to a tradesman. 
Perhaps it was scarcely to be wondered at that 
bills had been surreptitiously incurred, that pay-day 
had come, as it always must come, and that Dick 
had been packed off to seek his living in a distant 
colony, with the memory of a paternal rebuke 
somewhat more severe than his duplicity and ex- 
travagance had merited. But then Mr Morgan 
had intended all along to make atonement — his life, 


by Google 


indeed, ever since Dick's early childhood, had been 
one long atonement for the self-indulgence which 
had deprived them both of their home — and if, 
upon occasion, he had seemed to be unbending 
and unsympathetic, that had been only because 
he knew better than anybody what is apt to be 
the result of misplaced leniency. 

All this, and a good deal more, he explained in 
the letter which it took him a full hour to write, 
and which begged his dear boy to return to 
England immediately. His dear boy, who had 
long been his own master, was now going to be 
a comparatively rich man ; the past was to be for- 
gotten, the future was bright with promise. Only 
Mr Morgan made no reference to Flo Leighton ; 
because that had been a stupid youthful affair 
which belonged to the past, and the Leightons, 
though decent people enough in their way, were 
not quite in the social class whence the owner of 
Ridge End might be expected to select a bride. 
It had been extremely silly of Dick to talk about 
marrying the girl, when he had not means adequate 
to his own support; but young fellows will do 
these silly things, and too much importance should 
not be ascribed thereto. 

For some days after the notable departure from 
his customs which has been recorded, the habitues 
of the club to which Miser Morgan belonged 


by Google 


watched him as the islanders of Melita watched 
St Paul; but their curiosity went unrewarded. 
Port wine was one of the many things for which 
Mr Morgan had lost all taste, a cigar is not neces- 
sarily good because it costs a shilling, and to the 
comments and opinions of his acquaintances he was 
wholly indifferent. He made no change in his 
manner of life, nor did he wish to make any. 
All he desired was a reply from South Africa, 
and for that he must needs wait, he knew not 
how many weeks. It was without the smallest 
expectation that it would contain anything of per- 
sonal interest to him that he picked up the news- 
paper from his breakfast-table one morning, and 
read the following paragraph, which chanced to 
catch his eye: — 

" Loss of a Passenger off Cape Verd. — A tele- 
gram from Madeira announces the arrival of the 
homeward-bound mail steamer Teuton from the 
Cape. The captain reports that, during heavy 
weather off Cape Verd, one of the passengers was 
swept overboard by a green sea, and that all efforts 
to effect a rescue proved unavailing. Mr Richard 
Morgan, the unfortunate young gentleman whose 
career has thus been brought to an untimely end, 
was believed to have been singularly fortunate in 
recent mining ventures, and was on his way to join 
his father in London, bringing, it is stated, a large 


by Google 


sum in cash with him. His death is much de- 
plored by his fellow-passengers, amongst whom he 
had made himself universally popular." 

A stag with a bullet through his heart will often 
go for before he drops. Mr Morgan quietly laid 
down the paper beside his untouched breakfast, 
left the club, and walked back to his lodgings with 
a steady step. Nature, supplemented by circum- 
stances, had made him something of a Stoic ; yet 
it was by no conscious effort that he maintained 
an unmoved exterior beneath the stroke of the 
thunderbolt which had thus fallen upon him out 
of a clear sky. There are calamities so complete 
and so utterly irremediable that they scarcely touch 
the emotions at the moment of their occurrence, 
and are frequently met with sheer disbelief. 

Well, there was room for incredulity in the 
present instance, at all events, seeing that Dick 
(although, to be sure, he had not written for a 
long time) had given no intimation of his inten- 
tion to return to England, and that neither his 
Christian name nor his surname could be called 
uncommon. There are, of course, any number 
of Richard Morgans in the world. The old man 
kept repeating to himself in a dull, bewildered 
way, that there were plenty of Richard Morgans, 
and that it must have been some other Richard 
Morgan who had taken passage from the Cape, 


by Google 


and had been such a fool as to stand on deck 
during an Atlantic gale. 

He said as much later in the day to two or 
three friends (he had but two or three left, and 
they not very intimate ones), who were kind 
enough to look him up and assure him of their 
sympathy. a I am not alarmed about my son," 
he told them; " things of that sort don't happen. 
I might telegraph to Madeira; but it would cost 
a lot of money, and the chances are that I should 
receive no trustworthy information. In a few 
days the ship will come in; then I shall see the 
captain and make sure. However, I really feel 
no anxiety." 

But his freedom from anxiety, which scandalised 
his friends, and caused them to remind one another 
what a harsh, unnatural father Miser Morgan had 
always been, did not enable him to sleep or to 
show himself at the club, or even to eat more 
than was absolutely needful to keep life in him. 
How he spent the next four or five days he would 
have been puzzled afterwards to say. He did not 
leave his rooms ; he did not speak or read or think 
much; he simply waited for something that was 
coming nearer and nearer every hour — something 
that was going to kill him perhaps, if that mattered. 
His wits must have continued to serve him after a 
mechanical fashion; for when he went down to 


by Google 


Southampton to meet the Teuton, he had the 
forethought to take his old family lawyer with 
him. Circumstances might demand proof of his 
identity and the presence of a legal adviser. 

"Not that I anticipate any necessity for troubling 
you; only it is as well to be prepared for possi- 
bilities," he was careful to explain to his travelling 
companion, who replied : — 

" Quite so, my dear Mr Morgan, quite so ! I 
myself seldom leave home without an umbrella, 
even though there may be no clouds in the 

There were clouds enough in the sky, as they 
were both well aware, and they had not been five 
minutes on board the mail steamer before doubt 
had given place to certainty. The captain of the 
Teuton, who was kind and sympathetic, made 
no difficulty about delivering up the effects of 
his deceased passenger : that Mr Morgan was the 
father of the drowned man was as easily proved 
as that the drowned man had been no other than 
Mr Morgan's son. Upon the latter point the evi- 
dence afforded by baggage and clothes, which were 
at once recognised, was conclusive. A portmanteau, 
when opened, was found to contain a faded photo- 
graph of the old man, who gazed silently at it, 
together with — oh, bitter irony! — the last letter, 
dated some months back, which he had addressed 


by Google 


to his son. Mr Morgan stooped down and possessed 
himself of this document. He seemed to be under 
the impression that those who stood beside him 
were acquainted with its purport ; for he thought 
it necessary to say, in tremulous, apologetic 
accents : — 

44 My son and 1 were upon rather cold terms ; I 
could not write to him quite as I felt. My duty, as 
I saw it, was to remind him that — that he had 
given me reason to be displeased with him. For 
we ought not to forgive ourselves too easily, and 
he was a careless young fellow — a careless, light- 
hearted young fellow ! " 

44 He was an uncommonly fine young fellow," 
the captain declared, with a touch of indignation. 
44 As merry, kind-hearted and open-handed a fellow 
as ever I sailed with in my life ! " 

44 Thank you, sir," returned Mr Morgan; 44 I 
am glad you liked him. He was all that you 
call him, and I dare say you understood him 
better than I did. However, that is of little con- 
sequence now. I suppose he didn't — er — happen 
to mention me in any way — -just in the course of 
conversation ? " 

The captain could not remember that he had 
done so, beyond stating that he meant to join his 
father in London by-and-by. 44 He was to have 
left us at Madeira. I gathered that he had some 


by Google 


idea of treating himself to a continental trip with 
the money that he had made at the mines. I have 
his cash-box, I should tell you." 

There was little more to be said and very little 
more to be done. Certain formalities were under- 
taken by the lawyer, who saw his client safely 
back to London, and who knew better than to 
attempt anything so impossible as consolation on 
the journey. Yet, after all, he had been for many 
years the trusted confidant of the so-called miser; 
he, and he alone, held the key to that long, solitary, 
self-denying life, and he could not say goodbye 
without one indispensable word of exhortation. 

" My dear Mr Morgan — my dear old friend, you 
won't stay in these wretched lodgings all by your- 
self, will you ? You will go down, after a time, to 
your own home at Ridge End, and — and try to 
form fresh interests for yourself. Meanwhile, if 
you will only come to us, my wife will give you a 
warm welcome, and 1 promise you that you shall 
not be disturbed in any way." 

" Thank you," answered the other, " but I think 
I will remain where I am, and I hope never to set 
eyes on Ridge End again. Nevertheless, I am 
obliged to you for your kind offer. As for fresh 
interests — well, hardly at this time of day! I 
understand what you are afraid of ; but you are 
mistaken. I shall neither cut my throat nor blow 


by Google 


out my brains. Besides, if I did, what difference 
would that make to anybody ? " 

His despair took that rather unapproachable 
form. People who were sorry for him (and there 
are always a few good creatures who are sorry for 
the most unamiable of us when we are in affliction) 
did what they could, but fell back discomfited be- 
fore the cold, dry civility with which their advances 
were received. Nobody, except the lawyer, knew 
for certain that he had cared at all for his only son. 
His wish evidently was to be left alone, and it was, 
of course, a good deal easier to comply with that 
wish than to combat it. 

A visitor who was, if anything, slightly more 
unwelcome to him than the rest was Charles 
Leighton, a man with whom he had at one time 
been almost intimate, but whom he had carefully 
avoided ever since poor Dick's absurd announce- 
ment that he was engaged to be married to Mr 
Leighton's daughter. There had been no formal 
engagement. The girl's parents, who had been 
reasonable enough, had agreed that, under the 
circumstances, nothing of that sort could possibly 
be sanctioned. Still, Mr Morgan had not been 
altogether satisfied, suspecting them of suspecting 
him. Nothing was more probable than that they 
believed, as most people did, that he was really a 
rich man and could afford to give his son a hand- 


by Google 


some allowance, if he chose. Leighton himself, an 
elderly, good-humoured stockbroker, was harmless 
and unobjectionable — as were also, for the matter 
of that, his wife and his daughter. Only they 
were utterly unknown in society, and it had seemed 
prudent to drop them. But now, for reasons best 
known to himself, here was this prosperous-looking 
Philistine, with visage elongated to fit the demands 
of the case, and a suggestion that hands might 
once more be clasped under the pressure of a 
common affliction. 

"My good man," said Mr Morgan, "I have no 
quarrel with you ; I am sorry that you should have 
imagined I had any. Previous to my son's sailing 
for South Africa we agreed, if I remember rightly, 
that we had better see rather less of one another 
than we had done — that was all." 

"But you can have no objection to seeing us 
now, Morgan ? " observed Mr Leighton, with a 
sigh. "Whatever your views and wishes may 
have been, an end has come to them — as well 
as to our hopes." 

" What hopes ? " Mr Morgan asked rather 

It was absurd to be annoyed, seeing that 
nothing mattered, or ever would matter again, 
yet he could not help resenting a little the 
employment of that word. 


by Google 


" Well, if you had a daughter who was grow- 
ing thin and ill for love of a young man who 
hadn't money enough to marry upon, and if that 
young man wrote to say that he was making his 
fortune hand over hand and meant to be true to 
the girl of his choice, I suppose you would have 
hopes, wouldn't you ? " 

"I suppose I should," answered Mr Morgan; 
44 I'm not blaming you. Dick was in the habit of 
writing to you, then ? " 

44 He was in the habit of writing to Flo, I 
believe. You may say that it would have been 
more straightforward on my part to put a stop 
to the correspondence when I found out about 
it, but, hang it all! one isn't made of cast-iron. 
Besides, I take it that a man of independent 
means has a right to please himself, and poor 
Dick, it seems, had become really independent 
within the last few months." 

44 From communications which have quite re- 
cently been made to me, I gather that that is 
so," replied Mr Morgan coldly. 44 I had not 
hitherto been aware of it. My son did not 
honour me with the confidence which he reposed 
in you — or in your daughter. You knew, perhaps, 
that he was on his way home ? " 

44 Yes ; we knew. Dick would have told you, 
only — well, to speak the truth, I believe he was 



by Google 


a bit afraid of you. He foresaw that you would 
be opposed to his marriage, and his idea was that 
he would have a rather better chance of over- 
coming your opposition by word of mouth than 
by letter." 

" I see. An agreeable surprise that you were 
all kind enough to prepare for me. Well, we 
have had a surprise; but it hasn't been exactly 
an agreeable one, has it ? " 

Mr Leighton shook his head sorrowfully. He 
had not expected to be too well received by that 
hard-hearted old Morgan, and, himself being a 
worthy creature, he took no umbrage. After a 
pause he remarked : — 

" It's a bad business — a shocking bad business 
— for poor Flo." 

" She will get over it," said Mr Morgan drily. 
" At her age people get over things." 

" Not always, I'm afraid ; though, of course, 
that is what one must hope for. Anyhow, you 
can understand that it is very sad for her mother 
and me to see her looking so miserably unhappy, 
and that we naturally wish to gratify any whim of 
hers that it is in our power to gratify." 

A curt nod of the head signified that Mr 
Morgan was able to understand that, and his 
visitor, thus encouraged, went on : — 

" It would be a kindness, and I believe it might 


by Google 


even be good for you too, to look her up one of 
these afternoons. She is very anxious to have a 
talk with you, and " 

"I am sorry," interrupted Mr Morgan, "but I 
must really beg you to excuse me. I am going 
nowhere at present, nor could I say anything to 
your daughter which would be likely to do her or 
me the smallest good. Her trouble, as I tell you, 
is curable, and will be cured without help from 
me. Mine happens to be incurable, and it cer- 
tainly would not console me to talk about it.*' 

" Well, that isn't her opinion. She thinks she 
could tell you things about poor Dick which might 
give you a little consolation. She has been hearing 
from him pretty constantly, you see." 

If Mr Morgan had spoken the words which 
were in his mind, he would have said, " Con- 
found you, you clumsy fool ! Why must you 
needs go on reminding me of that ? " But it 
was not worth while to be angry with the man 
— it was no longer worth while to be angry 
with anybody or at anything. So he merely 
reiterated, in accents of chilling politeness, his 
regret that he did not at present feel equal to 
paying visits; after which he glanced meaningly 
at the clock. 

Yet after Mr Leighton, obviously disconcerted 
and disappointed, had quitted him, he felt a 


by Google 


twinge of compunction. What, after all, was 
the use of snubbing people who, no doubt, 
meant to be kind? It was true that, upon their 
own showing, they had dealt with him after a 
fashion which he did not consider particularly 
friendly; but then he had had no claim upon 
their friendship, and their designs, like his own, 
had been brought to nought. If the girl really 
wished to see him, why should he deny her 
that poor solace? She was not going to be 
his daughter-in-law now, he had no reason for 
holding her at arm's length, and he presumed 
that she would have sufficient good taste and 
self-control to refrain from making a scene. 

The upshot of this and further musings was 
that on the following afternoon Mr Morgan 
rang the door-bell of a house in Bayswater with 
which he had once been tolerably familiar, and 
asked for Miss Leighton. Two minutes later 
he had been admitted into a small morning-room 
on the ground floor and was shaking hands with 
a pale-faced, brown-eyed girl, dressed in black, 
whom he mentally confessed to be both pretty 
and ladylike. 

" It is very good of you to grant my request," 
she said quietly. u I know it must go against the 
grain with you to enter this house." 

" Not particularly," answered Mr Morgan, 


by Google 



"Situated as I now am, it goes a little against 
the grain with me to enter anybody's house; 
but your father seemed to think that it would be 
a satisfaction to you to see me, and I felt, after 
he had left, that I had behaved churlishly in re- 

He honestly believed that he was speaking the 
truth, and that it had been merely a sense of what 
one afflicted mortal owes to another, not an over- 
powering anxiety to hear anything more that Flo 
Leighton might be able to tell him about his 
dead son, which had brought him all the way 
to Bayswater. But Flo Leighton, whose soft 
brown eyes had rested upon his while he spoke, 
may have understood him better than he under- 
stood himself, for she answered, with apparent 
irrelevance: — 

" It seems as if we had acted in an underhand 
way, I know, but when you have read Dick's 
letters, which I want to show you, you will see 
that his motives were not quite what you think. 
At all events, you will see that he longed to be 
friends with you again, and to make some amends 
for the distress and expense to which you were 
put through him." 

Mr Morgan took, with some hesitation, the 
bundle of closely written sheets extended to 


by Google 


"These letters are not addressed to me," 
said he ; " and — and they are love-letters, I 
suppose. I am not sure that I ought to look at 

" But they belong to me, and I wish you to look 
at them," the girl returned. " Unless you do, you 
will never know what Dick really was. Besides," 
she added, with a touch of pride, "I am not 
ashamed of anything that he has ever written to 

She had no reason to be so, either on her own 
account or on that of her correspondent. That 
much the old man to whom it had pleased her to 
deliver these ardent epistles from an exiled lover 
soon perceived. Love-letters, of course, they 
were, and he did not do more than glance at 
such portions of them as resembled all love-letters. 
What interested him — and had doubtless been 
intended to interest him — were the frequent re- 
ferences to himself and the evidence which these 
afforded of his dead boy's affection. It was an 
astonishing, yet indisputable, fact that Dick had 
done him justice — and more than justice. "The 
governor passes for being a hard man, but I can 
tell you that he is harder upon himself than he 
is upon anybody else. Why, I believe he actually 
kept himself short of meat and drink to pay for 
my education ! You wouldn't call him unforgiving 


by Google 


if you knew him as well as I do. He'll forgive me 
when I can show him some substantial proof that 
I have turned over a new leaf. Until then the 
best thing I can do is to hold my tongue." And 
again : " I am not going to write to the dear old 
chap. I want to give myself the treat of walking 
into his room some fine afternoon and putting all 
the money that he has had to pay up for me into 
his hand. Then I shall tell him how much I have 
already remitted to England, and then — well, then, 
I hope, he will come round with me and say some- 
thing pleasant to his future daughter-in-law. He 
could hardly be expected to say anything pleasant 
when he first heard of our engagement, and when 
I hadn't a sixpence in my pocket." 

When Mr Morgan had finished reading his son's 
letters he folded them up, and, after clearing his 
voice, handed them back to their owner. 

"My dear," said he, "if you intended to con- 
vince me that I have lost a daughter-in-law of 
whom any man might be proud, you have suc- 
ceeded, for such letters are only written to good 
women. But I doubt whether that was your 
object. Your object, I think, was to lessen my 
misery a little, if you could, not your own." 

The girl nodded. "I wanted you to under- 
stand," she said. 

"Well, you have succeeded there too* But 


by Google 


what can I do ? — what can anyone do now that all 
is over ? " 

"You can sometimes talk to me and let me 
talk to you about him," she answered. u You 
have nobody else to whom you can talk about 
him, nor have I, for although my parents are as 
kind as possible, of course they only liked him — 
he was nothing really to them. And I thought 
perhaps you might feel, as I do, that pain is 
harder to bear when one can't speak of it." 

Mr Morgan was by no means sure that he felt 
in that way, but he was touched and grateful. 
It struck him, too, that the poor girl must have 
been very unhappy before it had occurred to her 
to seek a confidant in a sour, reticent old man 
upon whose goodwill she had little reason to count. 
So he told her what he had told no one else, how 
his dream had been to restore Dick to his rightful 
position at Ridge End, how nearly that dream had 
approached fulfilment, and how he had actually 
written to recall the wanderer, who, had he but 
known it, was then lying deep under the Atlantic 
waves, beyond all reach of recall. Perhaps it was 
some slight comfort to him to relate these things. 
Certainly it was a comfort to listen to what Flo had 
to relate in return, and to be assured that poor 
Dick had always loved him. This forlorn and oddly 
matched couple spent upwards of half-an-hour to- 


by Google 


gether, and at the end of their interview each had 
conceived an affection for the other which seemed 
likely to endure as long as their joint lives. When 
Mr Morgan got up to go away he raised the girl's 
hand to his lips, saying : — 

" You have been very good to me. I will come 
again soon, if I may. For sonie little time, at all 
events, I shall not be afraid of wearying you with 
my senile chatter." 

"There is one subject which can never weary 
either of us," she replied, with conviction. 

But she was very young and her fellow-sufferer 
was very old. It would be ridiculous and monstrous 
and against nature that she should continue griev- 
ing all her days. Life lay before her, whereas it 
lay behind a worn-out septuagenarian. It stood 
to reason that she would marry some day and 
forget this early disaster. So Mr Morgan said to 
himself after he had returned to his lodging, and 
when, as was not surprising, he began to be 
sensible of some reaction from his unwonted in- 
dulgence in sentiment. To tell the truth, he 
had been thinking that he would make 31 will, 
bequeathing Ridge End to Flo Leighton, instead 
of letting the place go to the distant kinsman 
who, in the event of his dying intestate, would 
inherit all that he possessed; but there arose 
before him a vision of Flo's future husband — some 


by Google 


Brown, Jones, or Robinson, who would entertain 
his low-bred friends at Dick's table and shoot the 
partridges and pheasants that Dick ought to have 
shot — a vision all the more repulsive because it 
was almost sure to come true. And then, as one 
ugly thought is very apt to introduce another, it 
crossed his mind that the girl's advances might not 
have been wholly disinterested. He was ashamed 
of harbouring such suspicions, but he could not 
help himself. He had seen so much of the baser 
side of our complicated nature, and he knew so 
well that absolute singleness of purpose is a very 
rare masculine and a far more rare feminine attribute. 

" Not that I care," he muttered; " why should 
I bother myself about what will happen after I am 
dead and gone ? All the same, I don't feel much 
inclined to leave the old place to strangers, and if 
she was thinking of that — as I dare say she was, 
and quite natural too ! — she must prepare herself 
for a disappointment." 

He forgot that Miss Leighton could hardly have 
been actuated by motives of that nature, since she 
had not been aware that he had regained possession 
of his estate until he told her. Many fractious 
children, and not a few grown-up persons, are 
wont to put forward imaginary grievances for the 
sake of being contradicted and comforted; but 
there was nobody to contradict old Miser Morgan, 


by Google 


to whom at that moment the memory of a nick- 
name, which was no secret to him, chanced to 
recur and brought a bitter smile to his lips. 
"Miser Morgan, do they call me? — miserrimus 
would be nearer the mark! I have heaped up 
riches and I cannot tell who will gather them. 
Only I know who will not, and I know that I 
would give them all for just one sight of a face 
that will never be seen again by mortal man." 

The sound of voices on the landing irritated his 
nerves and seemed to accentuate his solitude. As 
a general rule, he gave little trouble to servants 
and submitted uncomplainingly to the very audible 
chatter and laughter of the housemaid, who seemed 
to be a young woman of many friends ; but now 
he felt that he must have silence, and he was 
about to ring the bell and request her to carry on 
her conversation in a lower key when the door 
was suddenly opened, and a voice, which was not 
the housemaid's — a voice which caused him to 
bound on his chair — said : — 

44 I'm afraid I have given you a fine fright, sir ; 
but really it wasn't my fault." 

44 Dick ! " shrieked the old man, starting up and 
stretching out his arms. a But it's impossible ! — 
it can't be! Good God, what a heartless brute 
you must be, whoever you are, to play me such a 


by Google 


The stalwart young fellow, who was just in time 
to save Mr Morgan from falling, did not look 
much like a heartless brute; although he had 
perhaps some reason for stigmatising himself as a 
stupid, clumsy fool. A quarter of an hour later, 
when his father, who had fainted dead away, had 
been restored to consciousness, and had stopped 
his self-reproaches by shaking a tremulous fist at 
him, and by laughter which was not far removed 
from tears, he explained how he came to be safe 
and sound in London, instead of at the bottom of 
the Atlantic Ocean. 

41 It is quite simple," he said; "I didn't sail 
by the Teuton at all, though I had taken my 
passage. The poor chap who was drowned, and 
who claimed my cabin after relieving me of my 
money-box and other belongings, found it advis- 
able to personate me, I suppose. When you 
come to think of it, that was the wisest thing 
for him to do." 

" From his point of view I dare say it was," Mr 
Morgan agreed; "but I confess that I don't 
understand how such a scheme could be carried 
out with any chance of success. Who was he? 
Why did you let him rob you ? And why on 
earth didn't you telegraph to have him arrested 
at the first port of call ? " 

"He wasn't a bad fellow," answered Dick 


by Google 


meditatively. "His name was Johnson — at least, 
that was the name he bore — and we were pretty 
good friends up at the mines, he and I. Of 
course, one comes across some queer fish in those 
parts, and one doesn't inquire too closely into 
their history; but I thought he was more or 
less all right, so I was glad enough of his 
company when we started to travel down to 
the coast together — I with my pockets full 
of money, and he without a brass farthing, 
poor beggar! He had had the worst kind 
of luck, while I had had the very best, you 

"And you thought he was 'more or less all 
right,' and you considered it prudent to inform 
him that your kit contained a cash-box full of 
notes and gold! Then, as might have been 
anticipated, he knocked you on the head and 
levanted with your property. Oh, Dick, when 
will you learn that there aren't any honest men, 
except you and me, and perhaps a score or so 
of others, scattered here and there over the 
surface of a good-sized world?" 

Dick had to confess that he had been knocked 
on the head. He pushed aside his tightly curling 
hair to show the mark of the blow which had 
caused him to miss his passage and keep his 
bed for a matter of ten days. 


by Google 


" As for telegraphing to Madeira," said he, " I 
did think of doing that, and of course I should 
have done so if I could have foreseen that I 
should be reported in England as drowned. But 
I didn't know that anybody had been drowned 
or that anything had been reported; the first 
news I had of it reached me from the slavey 
who opened your door for me just now. And 
though it was a horrid bore to lose my money 
and my clothes, I felt that I could afford it. I 
shouldn't have liked the idea of sending poor 
Johnson to prison, for he really wasn't a bad 
sort of fellow — confound him 1 " 

Mr Morgan shook his head. "Proceed upon 
those principles and you will soon be left with- 
out a coat to your back," he remarked drily. 
"But on the present occasion Providence seems 
to have intervened, and your cash-box is all safe 
in the next room. I have heard, too, from your 
bankers, who tell me that you have become 
quite a capitalist. You'll hardly care to hear 
now that at last I have paid off the mortgages 
on Ridge End, and that you can take up your 
residence there as soon as you please." 

" Ridge End ! " exclaimed the young man, with 
wide-open eyes. "My dear father, you don't 
mean to say " 

"Oh, yes, I do; why not? Every man is 


by Google 


entitled to his hobby, you know, and that was 
mine. Besides which, it was distinctly my duty, 
since the property would have come to you un- 
encumbered if I hadn't been a for greater fool than 
you are when I was your age. As it is, you have 
had to suffer for my folly quite as much as I have 
done. But these are matters which we can discuss 
at our leisure. May I ask whether you have seen 
Miss Leighton yet ? " 

" I haven't seen a soul since I reached London, 
except some porters and a cabman and your maid- 
servant. Of course I drove straight here." 

Mr Morgan's eyes glistened. "So you came 
here first as a matter of course, did you?" said 
he, laying his hand upon his son's broad shoulder. 
"Well ! well ! she is a good girl, and I hope she 
will forgive you ; but you mustn't keep her wait- 
ing a moment longer than is necessary. Be off 
with you to Bays water, and when you are there 
you might just ask her what she would like a 
man of moderate means to give her for a wedding 

"You consent, then?" cried the young man 

"Come now, Dick! you don't expect me to 
believe that you would throw that poor girl over 
if I withheld my consent, do you? To speak 
honestly, I did think at one time that you might 


by Google 


have looked a little higher with advantage; but 
I'm not sure that I haven't changed my opinion, 
and when all's said, it's your affair, not mine. 
I am only too thankful, God knows, to have 
you back on any terms! If you proposed to 
marry a Hottentot, instead of a very charming 
young lady, I should be ready to give her my 

So there were great rejoicings in Bayswater 
that evening ; and some three months later a quiet 
marriage was solemnised between Richard Morgan, 
of Ridge End, Surrey, Esquire, and Florence, 
daughter of Mr Charles Leighton. The ceremony 
was perforce a quiet one, owing to the recent death 
of the bridegroom's father, who succumbed to a 
sudden fit of syncope a few weeks after his son's 
return from South Africa. He had accomplished 
his life's work; his last days were happy, and 
he was perhaps fortunate in the moment of his 
exit. Epilogues are so often apt to be tedious 
and disappointing. 

"Well might they call him Miser Morgan!" 
exclaimed Lord St Ronan when he perused the 
deceased's will, as reported in the newspapers. 
"There doesn't seem to have been much per- 
sonalty ; but no doubt he cheated the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer by making over the greater part 
of his fortune as well as his real property to his 


by Google 


son. He must have saved any amount of money 
in all these years — and not one penny bequeathed 
to charities, I see ! Ah, well ! I got ten pounds 
out of him once, and I suppose that is more than 
any other man living can say." 


by Google 


"DROWN?" said Mr Polwhele, holding out 
U at arm's length the card which the butler 
had just handed to him, and speaking in a tone of 
some irritation. "Who on earth is Mr Brown? 
— and what does he want ? " 

" Gentleman said he was staying at the Seaview 
Hotel, sir," the butler replied. "He wished to 
speak to you for a few minutes, if you was not too 

Mr Polwhele was as busy as country gentlemen 
who are supposed to lead a life of dignified ease 
generally are in these days. He had a number of 
letters to write and documents to look through. 
He had intimated to his family at luncheon that he 
did not wish to be disturbed until six o'clock ; he 
had settled himself down in his pleasant, spacious 
study, the windows of which over-looked the broad 
Atlantic, with the firm intention of doing a good 
afternoon's work, and now, just as he had begun 
to jot down the heads of the oration which he 
would be required to deliver on the morrow at a 
Primrose League meeting, this confounded fellow 



by Google 


must needs come bothering ! However, he was a 
good-natured old gentleman, so he pushed his 
fingers impatiently through his stubbly grey hair 
and said, in accents of resignation, " Oh, show him 
in, then," 

Presently he made an abrupt half-turn in his 
chair to scrutinise his visitor, who, contrary to his 
expectation, did not wear the outward appearance 
of being either an itinerant politician or a wine 
merchant's traveller. The new-comer was a tall, 
lean, melancholy-looking man, whose hair and 
beard conveyed the impression of being somewhat 
prematurely grizzled, and the fit of whose loose 
clothes was evidently not a subject which had 
engaged much of their wearer's attention. There 
was, however, no mistaking him for anything but 
a gentleman, and Mr Polwhele held out his hand 
at once. 

"I must apologise for intruding upon you," 
the stranger began. " Your servant told me that 
you were occupied, but I will not detain you 

"Oh, that's all right— that's all right," re- 
turned Mr Polwhele genially. " Please sit down. 
You are staying at the Seaview, aren't you ? Not 
very comfortable quarters at this season, I'm afraid : 
in August and September the house is crammed 
from attic to basement, they tell me. The north 


by Google 


coast of Cornwall has been discovered of late years, 
you see, and I can't say that the trippers add much 
to my personal comfort ; though of course one is 
glad that money should come into the place." 

" I find the hotel quite comfortable enough for 
the present," said Mr Brown. " It certainly would 
not suit me if it were crowded, my object being to 
live, if possible, in complete seclusion. And that 
brings me to the reason of my call. You are, I 
believe, the owner of the small island which lies 
about three miles westward of the mouth of 
Penewth Harbour ? " 

"The Shag Rock, do you mean? Oh, yes, it 
belongs to me, of course; but I'm afraid you 
couldn't live there, however great your love of 
seclusion may be, unless you were prepared to 
accommodate yourself in a rabbit-hole. There 
isn't a dwelling-house on the island, and never 
has been one." 

"It would be easy, or at all events not very 
difficult, to build one," Mr Brown observed tran- 
quilly. " I took the liberty of landing yesterday, 
and I ascertained that there was a fresh-water 
spring — which was the only essential condition. 
What I propose to do, should you be kindly 
willing to meet me in the matter, is to purchase 
the island. I could go as far as three thousand 


by Google 


" God bless my soul, man ! " exclaimed the lord 
af the manor in amazement ; " the rock isn't 
worth three thousand pence! Added to which, 
I am by no means sure that I have power to 
sell it. Thirdly and lastly, neither you nor any- 
body else could attempt to convert it into a place 
of residence. You think, perhaps, that the sea 
is always as smooth as it happens to be in this 
beautiful spring weather, and that you would be 
able to run to and fro in a steam-launch twice 
a day? My dear sir, I can assure you that in 
autumn and winter the Shag Rock is often simply 
unapproachable for weeks together." 

" One would have to provision oneself — I fully 
realise that," the stranger replied. "A steam- 
launch would be convenient in some ways, no 
doubt, but it would be scarcely practicable to 
keep her lying at anchor. There is, however, 
a cove with a shingly beach, upon which a fair- 
sized sailing-boat might be hauled up with the 
help of a windlass, and I saw that I should have 
to depend upon a sailing-boat for means of com- 
munication with the mainland." 

The man was quite in his right mind. Mr 
Polwhele, who had begun to feel some doubts 
upon the point, had to dismiss them after his 
expostulations had been met and the objections 
that he raised overruled by perfectly practical 


by Google 


and sensible replies. To be sure, it was not 
exactly what you could call sensible to talk about 
building a hut on a storm-swept Atlantic island 
and dwelling therein ; still, there was no denying 
that the thing could be done, and Mr Brown 
appeared to have thought it all ovit. For the 
rest, the very succinct account that he deemed 
it advisable to give of himself bore the impress 
of truth. The afflictions which are common to 
humanity had, he said, fallen upon him somewhat 
more heavily and at a somewhat earlier age than 
they do upon the majority of mankind; he had 
lost all those who had made life worth living 
for him. His sole remaining pleasure consisted 
in study, and his sole remaining ambition was to 
discover some spot in which his studies might 
be pursued without risk of interruption. Such ^ 
spots were not to be found every day in a : 
thickly populated country like England; but the 
Shag Rock would answer his purpose admirably. 

" And I cannot think, Mr Polwhele," he added, 
with a faint smile, " that that portion of your pro- 
perty can be of any great value to you." 

It was absolutely without value to the prosperous 
owner of Penewth House, whose prosperity was 
likely to be increased by the development — which 
he deprecated — of the fishing village of Penewth 
into a seaside resort. At the same time he felt 


by Google 


it incumbent upon him to remonstrate with the 
intending purchaser, from whom, in any case, he 
could not think of accepting anything like the sum 

"Well, Pll see my agent about it and let you 
know in a few days," he said at length, vanquished 
by the other's quiet, courteous persistency; "but I 
warn you that it will cost you a lot of money to 
erect the hut that you speak of; and when you 
have to abandon it— as you will within six months 
at the outside, unless Fm very much mistaken — 
you won't see your money back again, you know." 

u You are very much mistaken, sir," Mr Brown 
replied, with his faint smile; "it is only natural 
that you should be. Few people really find books 
a substitute for the company of their fellow- 
creatures, though many profess to do so. I am 
^ one of the few, and my servant, who has been 
with me for a number of years, has educated 
himself to bear with my habits. May I, then, 
call upon you again — let us say, in three days' 

He rose as he spoke, picking up the shapeless 
felt hat which he had allowed to fall to the floor ; 
but Mr Polwhele half involuntarily made a detain- 
ing gesture. The man was a gentleman; there 
was something about him, though it would have 
been difficult to say precisely what, which excited 


by Google 


sympathy and appealed to hospitable instincts. 
Surely Isabella would not see any objection to his 
being asked to dinner. 

At all events, he was asked to dinner. "My 
wife and daughters would be delighted to make 
your acquaintance. In our out-of-the-way part of 
the world we haven't yet lost the habit of looking 
upon all strangers as guests," it was explained to 

But Mr Brown, while expressing his gratitude 
with perfect politeness and self-possession, begged 
to be excused. 

" I have abjured visiting in any shape or form," 
he said, " and when one has resolved to spend the 
remainder of one's days as a recluse, it is best to 
make no exceptions. Pray apologise for me to 
Lady Isabella. If after I have taken up my abode 
upon my island (for I hope it is going to be my 
island) she finds me a most unsociable neighbour, 
that, after all, will be better than being bored by 
an obtrusive one." 

Penewth House was a vast grey granite build- 
ing, containing accommodation for a large number 
of guests and very seldom left to the sole tenancy 
of its owner, his wife and his two unmarried 
daughters ; but in the spring of the year there is 
always a difficulty about filling country houses, and, 
indeed, the Polwheles themselves were upon the 


by Google 


point of leaving for London. Perhaps it was 
because they were all alone, and she had nothing 
else to occupy her mind, that the curiosity of 
Lady Isabella, a busy, fashionable old person, was 
powerfully excited by the account given to her 
of the mysterious stranger. 

" Is he genuine ? " she asked. " Do you think 
he can possibly be genuine ? " 

"He is an authentic human being, and he 
really wants to buy the Shag Rock, if that is 
what you mean," answered Mr Polwhele, to whom 
these queries were addressed across the dinner- 

"Yes; but why? Can he be going to sink a 
mine-shaft? Or is it actually true that he has 
made up his mind to mourn his deceased wife in 
solitude for ever? That would be so nice of him ! 
— though of course rather silly." 

"I can't tell you anything about a deceased 
wife," Mr Polwhele replied; "he didn't say that 
he was a widower. He gave me to understand 
that he had lost everybody and everything — or, at 
least, not everything, since he was willing to pay 
three thousand pounds for a bare rock; but I 
gathered that what he wished for was a sort of 
living death." 

" Well," said Lady Isabella, " I can't help rather 
hoping that he will get his rock. If he does, we 


by Google 


will try to tame him when we come down again in 
the summer. But it would be as well to make 
sure first that there is no deception." 

A subsequent consultation with his agent con- 
vinced Mr Polwhele that there could not very well 
be any deception. The Shag Rock, a mere mass 
of limestone, sparsely coated with coarse grass, and 
inhabited only by the descendants of a few rabbits 
which had been turned down there many years 
before, % was so worthless a property from every 
point of view that Mr Polwhele might have given 
it away without being a penny the worse off 
Such as it was, however, it appeared to be included 
in the entail; so that a lease at a nominal rent 
was all that could be offered to Mr Brown when 
that eccentric gentleman returned to keep his 

He accepted the offer gratefully, and waved 
aside the dissuasive representations which his 
landlord felt it right to repeat. 

"I shall take care to be provided with a suffi- 
cient supply of food," he said; "and as for the 
difficulty of obtaining a doctor in case of illness, 
I may tell you that I have been accustomed 
to living in countries where medical attendance 
was necessarily dispensed with. Added to which," 
he concluded, with a short sigh, "I am never 


by Google 


" That is lucky for you," observed Mr Polwhele ; 
"but as you will not be all by yourself " 

u Lucas also is never ill. Lucas is my servant. 
He is a fairly good cook, as well as an ad- 
mirable valet, and he understands the duties of 
a housemaid. Lucas will constitute my entire 

" Then thank God I am not Lucas ! " Mr 
Polwhele could not refrain from ejaculating. 
" My dear sir, the poor man will infallibly go 

" Oh, I don't think so," said Mr Brown, smiling. 
u If he finds life on the island unendurable, nothing 
will be simpler than for him to give me warning ; 
but, as a matter of fact, I daresay he will be often 
ashore, and Penewth, you tell me, is quite a gay 
place in the summer months." 

Mr Polwhele shook his head. 

u It is by no means gay in the winter months, 
I can tell you ! However, if your hut is not an 
abandoned ruin before next winter, I shall be 
much surprised. I am only sorry that you 
should throw away so much money upon build- 
ing it." 

"Thanks to your generosity, I am throwing 
away nothing upon purchase-money or rent, you 
must remember," Mr Brown rejoined. 

He was so bent upon having his own way that 


by Google 


it would have been a waste of time to oppose 
him further, and Mr Polwhele could but shrug 
his shoulders. For some months after this he 
neither saw nor heard anything more of his queer 
tenant, and almost forgot the man's existence. In 
the hurry and bustle of a London season Cornwall 
seems a very long way off; besides, Mr Polwhele's 
memory was not a retentive one. 

But Lady Isabella, who never forgot anybody, 
made it her first business, on returning home in 
August, to inquire what had become of Mr 
Brown ; and the answer to her question was 
plainly discernible, with the aid of a pair of 
field-glasses, from the terrace. The hermit's 
abode had, it appeared, been sent down from 
London in pieces and fitted together in a marvel- 
lously short space of time. Its roof of corrugated 
iron caught the rays of the sinking sun sometimes, 
and smoke could be seen rising from the chimney, 
lending an entirely novel aspect to the hitherto 
deserted Shag Rock. So completely had Mr Brown 
made himself at home that he had well-nigh 
ceased to be a source of wonderment to the 
villagers, who seldom set eyes upon him, but who 
had established tolerably friendly relations with 
his man Lucas. The general belief was that 
Mr Brown was a fugitive from justice; but he 
was not on that account thought much the worse 


by Google 


of by a population which not so very many years 
ago was composed largely of smugglers and 

"Of course you must call upon him," Lady 
Isabella said to her husband decisively. "He can't 
refuse to come and dine if you ask him for the 
15th, and tell him that we shall not have a soul 
staying in the house on that day." 

Nevertheless, he could refuse, and did. Mr 
Polwhele duly had himself conveyed across to the 
island, was admitted without demur by the bronzed, 
hard-featured man who opened the door of the hut 
for him, and was shown into a sufficiently comfort- 
able room, lined with bookcases, where his tenant 
sat cleaning a gun; but Mr Brown, though as 
courteous as could be desired, firmly excused him- 
self from being presented to the ladies. 

" My wardrobe does not include a dress suit or 
a white tie," he said, with his melancholy smile. 
" It is really not in my power to accept your kind 
hospitality. Will you please tell Lady Isabella, 
with my sincere apologies, that I must be re- 
garded as being under a vow ? I have not spoken 
to one of her sex for — well, not for a very long 

" Oh, that s it, eh ! " thought Mr Polwhele to 
himself. Aloud he only expressed the polite regret 
which the occasion seemed to demand. But, as 


by Google 


before, something about the personality of this 
modern Diogenes appealed to his kind heart and 
prompted him to resume, after a pause : — 

44 My dear fellow, don't you think that you are 
making rather a mistake ? This sort of thing can't 
be kept up for ever, you see." 

44 1 see no reason why it should not be kept up 
as long as I live," Mr Brown replied. 44 You are 
sorry for me, and I am grateful to you for being 
sorry; but the truth is that I am not nearly so 
much to be pitied as you imagine. A solitary 
existence has no terrors for me ; it is what I am 
accustomed to and prefer. With my books and 
with an occasional shot at a duck " 

44 Oh, come ! " interrupted Mr Polwhele, 44 you 
aren't going to tell me that there is much fun to 
be got out of an occasional shot at a duck, I 
hope! Why not help me to shoot my partridges 
next month? We are old-fashioned folks in 
these parts, and the women don't accompany the 

44 Really, if you will forgive my churlishness, I 
would rather not. It so happens that I am a pretty 
good shot, and if I were to take advantage of your 
kind invitation, I could hardly hope to escape sub- 
sequent invitations from your neighbours. I am 
afraid I must stick to my rule of going nowhere 
and seeing nobody." 


by Google 


In the face of such obstinacy there was no 
more to be said. Mr Polwhele talked a little 
longer with his tenant, who proved to be singularly 
well informed upon current events and politics, 
but whose conversation afforded no clue to the 
strange resolution which he had adopted. 

"It is very evident to me," the old gentleman 
told his wife that evening, " that the poor beggar 
has been jilted, and has taken it tremendously to 
heart. Perhaps the kindest thing to do is to leave 
him alone and let time cure him." 

No other method of treatment, at any rate, 
seemed practicable, and Lady Isabella, slightly 
nettled, remarked that, so far as she was con- 
cerned, Mr Brown was entirely welcome to go on 
playing at being Robinson Crusoe. Lady Isabella, 
indeed, had plenty of other people and things to 
think about ; for her acquaintance was an enormous 
one, and the interest which she took in her 
acquaintances knew no bounds. Some weeks after 
this, when the shooting had begun and the house 
was full of people, she announced casually that 
Jack Leybourne was coming down to stay. 

" He is to be married very soon, you know, to 
a Miss Fleetwood — such a good thing! They 
have been attached to one another for years, it 
seems ; only of course he had no money, and she 
has only recently come into a fortune through the 


by Google 


death of some distant relative, from whom she had 
no expectations at all." 

"That sounds good luck for Jack Leybourne, 
whoever he may be," remarked Mr Polwhele; 
u but his name doesn't at this moment convey any 
distinct idea to my mind." 

"Of course you know perfectly well who the 
Leybournes are — Staffordshire people," said Lady 
Isabella impatiently. "Jack is either the second 
or the third son, I forget which. He has often 
dined with us in London ; so please don't look as 
if you didn't recognise him when he arrives." 

Mr Polwhele was guilty of no such breach of 
good manners. He was always glad to welcome 
visitors, even when his memory failed to inform 
him who they were; and the pleasant-looking, 
broad-shouldered man, with the short, fair beard, 
whom he found in the drawing-room before dinner 
had a vaguely familiar aspect. No doubt, as Lady 
Isabella had said, he was one of those numerous 
young gentlemen who turned up in London every 
year and made themselves useful at dances and 
theatres in return for hospitality received. On 
the following day, moreover, Mr Leybourne won 
his host's heart by proving himself a very nice 

" It's a real pleasure," Mr Polwhele said to him 
confidentially, "to meet with a man who can be 


by Google 


relied upon to kill his birds clean. Some of the 
fellows whom my wife asks down here — well, I 
won't mention names, but it does seem to me a 
most extraordinary thing that so many people who 
can't shoot should be fond of shooting." 

Some association of ideas led him to mention 
the recalcitrant tenant of the Shag Rock, and, as 
Mr Leybourne seemed to be much interested in 
hearing about that singular personage, the old 
gentleman said: "We'll go and look him up on 
Sunday afternoon. He hasn't had the civility to 
return my visit yet ; but that don't matter, and it 
will be something to do, if the afternoon turns out 
fine and you care for the sail." 

The Sunday afternoon did turn out fine, and 
Mr Leybourne, who, as an engaged man, was not 
urgently required to accompany the young ladies 
on a stroll to the home farm, willingly seated him- 
self in the little open boat which his entertainer 
knew very well how to manage. 

"Goodness knows," remarked Mr Polwhele, 
after the transit had been accomplished and, with 
the aid of his powerful young friend, he had 
hauled the boat up on the beach where Mr Brown's 
boat was lying — "goodness knows how we shall 
be received! I have always found the man 
pleasant enough, but he can be deuced disagree- 
able, they tell me, when he likes. It seems that 



by Google 


poor old Treherne — our parson, you know — came 
over, a short time ago, to call and to remonstrate 
with him upon never entering the church, and he 
got roundly snubbed for his pains, besides having 
been horribly sea-sick. I believe Brown told him 
that he had no sympathy with people who made 
themselves sick because they couldn't be content 
to mind their own business." 

"Well," observed Jack Leybourne, laughing, 
"we haven't come to remonstrate, at all events, 
and I think I can sympathise a good deal with 
people who turn rusty because their love-affairs 
haven't gone straight. I myself have been awfully 
lucky ; but there was a time when I didn't think 
I was going to be lucky, and I dare say I should 
have been capable of taking up my abode upon a 
rock in those days." 

" Ah ! " said Mr Polwhele ; " to me, I confess, 
it seems that a man who behaves as Brown is 
behaving makes a prodigious fuss about a small 
matter. But then I'm thirty years older than you 
are, I suppose." 

It did not take long to reach the hut, nor could 
there be any doubt as to the whereabouts of its 
owner ; for as the intruders drew near, that gentle- 
man's head and shoulders were plainly visible above 
the writing-table by the window at which he was 
seated. Mr Polwhele waved his hand in a friendly 


by Google 


fashion ; but his signal met with no response, and 
the head promptly disappeared. It was some little 
time, too, before repeated raps upon the closed 
door brought out the man Lucas, who said, with 
all the stolid imperturbability of a London butler : — 

"Not at 'ome, sir." 

" H'm ! " grunted Mr Polwhele, not best pleased ; 
" he was at home two or three minutes ago, any- 
how, for I happened to see him; but, of course, 
if he doesn't wish to be disturbed " 

"Mr Brown is not at 'ome, sir," repeated the 
servant, without moving a muscle. 

"Oh, very well! I'm afraid I haven't a card 
with me ; but perhaps you'll mention that I 

Mr Polwhele turned on his heel and marched 
off, with such dignity as circumstances and a rather 
precipitous descent permitted. 

a Ill-mannered churl ! " he growled ; " this is the 
last time that I shall attempt to be neighbourly 
with him. Since he wants to be sent to Coventry, 
let him have his way. However, we have had our 
sail, and you have seen his delightful island. Now, 
can you imagine any man being such a consummate 

The speaker paused abruptly, struck by a curious 
scared look upon the face of his companion, who 
had said nothing during the preceding five minutes. 


by Google 


"Mr Polwhele," asked the latter, in a some- 
what unsteady voice, " do you know who that man 
is ? Are you sure that his name is Brown ? " 

" Of course I ain't," answered the so-called Mr 
Brown's landlord; " how should I be? I've only 
his word for it, and I'm quite prepared to be told 
that he is some notorious malefactor or other. 
What is his name, then ? " 

"I am very much afraid," said Mr Leybourne, 
"that his name is Grimston. I may be wrong, 
and I hope to heaven I am ; but if the head that 
I caught sight of just now wasn't Dick Grimston's 
head, all I can say is that I never saw such an ex- 
traordinary likeness in my life." 

" And if it was the head of Dick Grimston — 
whoever he may be ? " 

" If it was — well, if it was, I hardly know what 
I ought to do. I suppose I ought to go back and 
make sure. I wonder whether you would mind 
sitting down for a few minutes — it's quite warm 
under the lee of this rock — while I tell you all 
about it. Then, perhaps, you could advise me." 

Mr Polwhele seated himself at once upon a 
grassy hillock. "Fire away, my dear fellow," 
said he; "anything that you may think fit to tell 
me shall be treated as a confidential communica- 
tion. Only I had better, perhaps, remind you that 
I am a magistrate." 


by Google 


" Oh, it isn't a case for the police," answered 
the other, laughing a little ; " it's merely a question 
— or, at least, it may be — of honour. You know 
that Fm going to be married soon. Well, the girl 
whom I am going, I hope, to marry, was once 
engaged to Dick Grimston." 

"And she threw him over, eh? I suspected all 
along that there was something of that sort. Sorry 
for Grimston, if Brown is Grimston ; but women 
will change their minds, and I don't see why this 
supposed discovery should make you turn so white 
about the gills." 

"You will see presently. Dick Grimston, I 
must tell you, was the best friend I have ever had 
in the world. He lived, all by himself, upon a 
nice little property that he had near us in the 
country, and though, of course, he was a good deal 
older than I was, he took me up when I was a 
boy, used to have me to stay with him in the 
holidays, and taught me all I know in the way of 
riding and shooting. There never was a better 
sportsman — or a better fellow." 

Jack Leybourne paused and sighed regretfully. 
"I don't think there's any need to go into the 
whole history," he resumed ; a besides, it wouldn't 
interest you. I believe I fell in love with Edith 
Fleetwood before I left school, and I'm sure I was 
in love with her when I was an undergraduate; 


by Google 


but I never thought of saying so. I had no money, 
you see, nor the slightest prospect of making any ; 
so that I was in a sort of way contented to worship 
her from afar. I sometimes comforted myself by 
fancying that she understood what my feelings 
were, and I often fancied that dear old Dick 
Grimston did. Consequently, it was a good deal of 
a shock to me when Dick informed me one day that 
Edith and he were going to be married. I can't 
think how he managed to help noticing my con- 
sternation; but he evidently didn't notice it, and 
he was in the wildest of spirits, poor old chap! 
Well, there was nothing to be done but to put a 
good face upon it, and Edith's mother put an un- 
commonly good face upon it ; for Dick was pretty 
well off in those days. Then, within a month of 
the day that had been appointed for the wedding, 
came a most hideous smash. I can't tell you the 
details, and they don't signify ; but I think it was 
through the failure of some bank that Dick lost 
every penny he possessed- If Mrs Fleetwood had 
had her way, the engagement would have been 
broken off then and there; but Edith wouldn't 
hear of that, and the end of it was that Dick went 
away to Australia to begin life afresh, with the 
understanding that Edith was to follow him as soon 
as he should have a home to offer her." 

Mr Polwhele shook his head. "Very selfish 


by Google 


conduct on your friend's part, in my opinion," was 
his comment. 

"No; I don't think you could call it selfish 
conduct. How could he desert her when she 
refused to be deserted ? If you knew Edith, and 

if you had known Dick However, one knows 

precious little about one's best friends; and that 
was what we all thought when the news came of 
his having married the daughter of a rich squatter 
out there. I shouldn't have believed it — and I'm 
horribly afraid, after what I saw this afternoon, 
that I don't believe it now — but perhaps I wanted 
to believe it. He hadn't written for I forget how 
many months, and Edith was in great distress about 
some rumour of an Englishman having been robbed 
and murdered in the district where he lived, when 
one fine day came a letter from the young woman, 
saying that her dear Dick had begged her to 
communicate with his friends and announce his 
approaching marriage. He was too lazy to write 
himself, she said, and he had become such a 
thorough Australian that he seemed almost to have 
forgotten the old country. But she had been 
questioning him about Staffordshire, and she was 
sure we should all be glad to hear of his and 
her happiness. The story sounded awfully im- 
propable, no doubt " 

" Not a bit of it { " interrupted Mr Polwhele ; 


by Google 


" much more improbable things happen every day. 
Supposing Brown to be Grimston — which isn't yet 
proved, mind you — I think I can form a pretty 
shrewd guess at what has occurred. The squatter's 
daughter jilts him ; he comes back to England to 
find that his first love has not only inherited a 
fortune but engaged herself to a much better 
fellow ; then he plants himself upon a lonely rock 
in the sulks, curses the whole race of women, 
and slams his door in one's face when one takes 
the trouble to pay him a friendly call. Oh, he 
be hanged! Don't you bother your head about 

"Oh, I shall bother my head — I shall bother 
my head," said Jack Leybourne pensively. And 
then, as if taking a sudden resolution, he sprang to 
his feet. "I must see him!" he exclaimed; "it's 
indispensable that I should see him. I won't be 
away more than ten minutes or a quarter of an 
hour, if you'll be good enough to wait for me 

" As you please," answered Mr Polwhele, with 
a shrug of his shoulders ; " I confess that, if 
I were you, I shouldn't see the necessity of an 

"Ah, but then you don't know all," returned 
the young man, who made as much haste to 
retrace his steps as if he had been — and very 


by Google 


likely he was — afraid of being seduced into shirking 
a duty. 

He was back again before the expiration of the 
time that he had mentioned. "I can't effect an 
entrance," he announced; "I shouted and hammered 
for ever so long, but nobody appeared ; so at last 
I scribbled a few words upon a card and shoved it 
under the door. Unfortunately, I must leave you 
by the middle of the day to-morrow ; but I suppose 
that will give him time to communicate with me, 
won't it?" 

" Oh, Lord, yes ! " answered Mr Polwhele. 
"With the wind and sea as they are now, there 
won't be the slightest difficulty about that; 
though I really don't quite see what he can have 
to communicate to you. It's no business of mine, 
but may I venture to ask, as a matter of pure 
curiosity, whether you contemplate handing Miss 
Fleetwood over to him, by way of a reward for 
his constancy ? " 

"I may have to do so," replied the other 
gravely. "All along Edith has told me that she 
considered herself pledged to him; all along she 
has had great difficulty in believing that he was 
false to her Oh, well ; there's no use in try- 
ing to explain these things; but if I don't hear 
from him, do you think — am I bound in honour, 
I wonder, to tell her what I suspect ? " 


by Google 


Mr Polwhele said : " Stuff and nonsense ! Either 
the girl loves you or she doesn't. If she doesn't, 
you had better make Brown-Grimston welcome to 
her; if she does, you're entitled to her, in spite 
of all the desert-islanders that the world contains. 
You young fellows of the present day have such a 
mania for splitting hairs that common sense can't 
keep step with you." 

Jack Leybourne's common sense, at all events, 
was not so obscured by the refinements of modern 
civilisation but that it led him to much the same 
conclusions as Mr Polwhele had formed, and, as 
no message reached him on the morrow from his 
supposed friend of former years, he drove off to 
the station with a more or less quiet mind. It 
was a fact that Edith loved him ; he was not quite 
sure whether it was a fact or not that she had once 
loved Dick Grimston; all things considered, he 
was disposed to doubt the expediency of agitating 
her by the statement that he had caught a glimpse 
of a man uncommonly like Dick Grimston upon a 
lonely island off the Cornish Coast. 

And what, happily, freed him from all lingering 
doubts and misgivings was that, just as he was 
about to step into the train, he found himself on a 
sudden face to face with the servant who had so 
inflexibly proclaimed Mr Brown's absence from 
home on the previous day. A few rapid, point- 


by Google 


blank queries, addressed to the man, elicited 
replies which could not but be satisfactory to any 
human being in Jack Leybourne's place. 

" Haustralia, sir ? Never set foot there in all my 
born days, nor the master ain't neither, so fur as I 
know — and I've known him, as I may say, from a 
child. Nor yet I can't call to mind as I ever come 
across a party by the name of Grimston. Mr 
Brown, you see, sir, is an uncommon studious 
gentleman, and he can't abear for to be interrupted 
when he's readin' or writin'. Sorry to be obliged 
to turn you away yesterday, sir; but horders is 
horders, and 'twould be as much as my place was 
worth to disobey 'em. The master told me he 
found your card on the floor; but he couldn't 
make head nor tail of it. I says to him, ' Seems 
to me, sir,' I says, 4 that this 'ere's a case of what 
they calls in the police-courts mistaken identity,' 
I says." 

Possibly it was, and Jack Leybourne was com- 
pelled by the force of circumstances to hope with 
all his heart that it might be. There was, perhaps, 
no particular reason for presenting Lucas with 
half-a-sovereign ; but who can help being open- 
handed in a moment of supreme relief? 

As for Mr Polwhele, he had the good sense to 
hold his peace, notwithstanding the strong tempta- 
tion that he experienced to take Lady Isabella and 


by Google 


the girls into his confidence. He was a man who 
loved to tell a good story, and this really seemed to 
be a most interesting story ; though, to be sure, it 
laboured under the disadvantage of being an un- 
finished one. But just because it was unfinished, 
and because it might, perhaps, be made to end 
after an undesirable fashion by the interference 
of irresponsible women, he thought it right to 
bottle up and cork down both his news and his 

Such heroic self-control not only deserved but 
actually received a prompt and fitting reward. Mr 
Polwhele was seated in his study, that same evening, 
smoking a last cigar, as his habit was, before retiring 
to bed. He had already said goodnight to the 
men who were staying in the house, and whom he 
had left in the billiard-room ; he was listening to 
the wind, which had begun to blow in short, sharp 
gusts from the south-west, and he was saying to 
himself that there would be no shooting on the 
morrow, when the butler came in to ask whether 
he could see Mr Brown. 

" Of course I can," answered the old gentleman, 
with alacrity. "Show him in, and bring the spirit 
decanters and some soda-water. What a queer 
hour to call ! " he added, under his breath, as the 
man withdrew. "Now, I should imagine, we are 
going to hear all about it." 


by Google 


That Mr Brown had come for the express 
purpose of telling him all about it was immediately 
made manifest. 

" No doubt," the nocturnal visitor began, after 
shaking hands with his host and declining refresh- 
ment, "Jack Leybourne has told you who I 

" Well, he told me who he thought you were," 
answered Mr Polwhele ; " naturally, he could not 
be quite positive." 

u Just so ; and I have taken measures which, I 
trust, may convince him that he has been the victim 
of some hallucination. But, on thinking it over, I 
saw that it would be practically impossible to keep 
you and your family in the dark if you chose to 
set to work to make inquiries. That is why I am 
here to relate my story to you and to beg you to 
keep my secret. When you have heard me out 
you will admit, I am sure, that betrayal of it would 
benefit nobody and distress more persons than one. 
May I take it, then, that you will consider yourself, 
for the time being, a priest in a confessional, and 
will listen to what I have to say under precisely 
similar restrictions ? " 

Mr Polwhele shifted uneasily in his chair. He 
wanted very badly to hear the story ; but it was 
not clear to him that he would be justified in com- 
mitting himself to such a promise, and something 


by Google 


in the sad, honest eyes which met his appealed, as 
before, to his sympathy and compassion. 

"Well, you know, Brown — or perhaps I ought 
rather to say Grimston, ,, he replied, "I'm not sure 
that that is altogether fair. You may be going to 
say things which, for your own sake, or for the 
sake of others, it would be my duty to reveal. 
According to Jack Leybourne, you jilted that girl 
and married somebody else. ftTow, I shouldn't be 
surprised if you were about to tell me that you have 
done nothing of the sort, and that there has been 
some great mistake. In that case " 

"In that case, Mr Polwhele," interrupted the 
other calmly, " it certainly could be no part of your 
duty to make a worse one. I am aware that mis- 
takes have been made, although I was not aware 
until now that I was supposed to have married any- 
body ; but that does not affect the general situation, 
as to which no mistake is possible. If you object 
to binding yourself, all I can do is to rely upon 
your honour. Having gone so far, I should 
do more harm than good by holding my tongue 

"That may be," agreed Mr Polwhele, nodding. 
" Proceed, my dear fellow ; you may be sure that 
I won't split if I can honourably help it." 

The first part of the narrative which Richard 
nston (to call him by his own name) unfolded 


by Google 


without further preface was practically identical 
with that related by Jack Leybourne on the pre- 
vious day. It was only when he came to his 
Australian experiences that Mr Polwhele, who 
had left the age of sentiment many years behind 
him, pricked up his ears and became attentive. 

"I was extraordinarily fortunate in all my ven- 
tures," the narrator said ; " everything that I 
touched seemed to turn to gold; I found myself 
growing not only comparatively but literally rich 
day by day. In writing to Edith 1 did not mention 
this; because in every enterprise there must be 
risks, and I was half afraid of disappointing her, 
half anxious to give her what I imagined would 
be a joyful surprise. But at length the time came 
when it seemed prudent to dispose of my land and 
stock, take ship for England and reveal myself as 
a well-to-do man. I never wished Edith to join 
me in Australia ; she was in no way fitted for that 
sort of life. 

" So, one fine morning, I set out to ride the 
whole way down to Melbourne, all by myself, and 
with a considerable sum of money about me — 
which was probably a very foolish thing to do. 
Not that it signifies ; still, it was foolish, no doubt, 
and I paid the penalty of my folly when I was set 
upon, in a lonely district, by three fellows against 
whom it was obvious that I couldn't have the ghost 


by Google 


of a chance. Nevertheless, I chose to show fight, 
and the inevitable result followed. They were 
caught soon afterwards and had a narrow squeak 
of being tried for murder, and I got my money 
back. Not that that signifies very much either. 
Meanwhile, I had been picked up for dead and 
carried to the station of a certain Mr Robson, 
whose family showed me so much kindness during 
a very long illness that I feel a brute for saying 
that it would have been a great deal kinder to let 
me die. There I lay, with a fractured skull and 
I know not how many other injuries, for months 
and months ; I remember very little about it, ex- 
cept that I was almost always in pain. The doctors 
who were summoned looked upon it, I believe, as 
a hopeless case, and declared that, even if they 
succeeded in saving my life, I should be an idiot 
for the remainder of it. Yet here I am, sound in 
body and mind. Or perhaps you do not think 
that I am so very sound in mind?" 

"That remains to be seen," said Mr Polwhele 

"Quite true. Well, I'll get on as quickly as 
I can. Mr Robson had a daughter, Sophy ; that 
says everything, doesn't it, to a quick intelligence 
like yours ? One has heard and read the same old 
story so many times in real life and fiction ! But 
my intelligence was in poor working order at the 


by Google 


time, and I suppose that was why no suspicion of 
the obvious dawned upon me until one afternoon 
when I was well enough to crawl out to the veran- 
dah and when she became — what shall I call it ? — 
unmistakably affectionate. What could I do ? I 
was deeply indebted to her ; I hated to make her 
cry ; I would have made any sacrifice, except the 
one which, of course, I couldn't make, to show my 
gratitude ; but it was essential that she should be 
told of my engagement, and I told her. 

"After that I had some painful experiences, 
upon which I don't know that there is any ne- 
cessity for me to dwell. I could not possibly leave 
the station, being far too weak to mount a horse ; 
so I had to remain where I was for weeks and 
weeks, which as you may imagine, were not alto- 
gether pleasant ones. And during the whole of 
my protracted illness not a letter had come for me 
from England." 

"The girl had burnt 'em, you may be sure," 
interjected Mr Polwhele. 

"Do you think so? It is possible, and, like 
everything else connected with my misfortunes, it 
doesn't signify. She undertook to write to Edith 
for me, since I could not hold a pen myself " 

"I should rather think she didl Why, she 
wrote to say that you were upon the point of 
leading her to the altar I " 



by Google 


" Ah, I see ! " returned Grimston, with curious 
indifference. "She may even have thought that 
she was speaking the truth ; for, as I hinted just 
now, the latter part of my sojourn under her 
father's roof was marked by incidents which are 
best forgotten. The end of it was that I had 
practically to run away, pretending that it was 
necessary for me to go down to Melbourne on 
business, and that I should be back in a fortnight, 
whereas I fully intended to be well out to sea, on 
my way home, by that time. I trust I have been 
forgiven ; at all events, I have the satisfaction ot 
knowing that I have been replaced, for I saw the 
announcement of Miss Sophy's marriage to a neigh- 
bouring squatter some time ago." 

u And when you reached home, you found that 
you had been replaced here too ? " 

44 Well, yes; it comes to that. But a man 
doesn't change his name and hide himself from 
his friends merely because he has been thrown 
over by the girl whom he hoped to marry, you 
will say. I must try to make you understand why 
I had no alternative. I had completely recovered, 
and was perfectly well able to write a letter when 
I landed at Plymouth ; but it was a fancy of mine 
to relate my adventures to Edith by word of mouth; 
so I travelled down to Staffordshire without saying 
a word to anybody, and, leaving my portmanteau 


by Google 


at the railway station, set out to walk across the 
fields and through the woods to the old place. It 
was a beautiful spring evening, and I particularly 
wanted to revisit the woods, because I had so often 
sat there with Edith on bygone spring evenings. 
She was sitting there still — sitting in the very 
same old spot under the beech tree ; but my friend 
Jack Leybourne was sitting beside her, and my 
friend Jack Leybourne's arm was round her waist. 
I drew nearer and nearer to them, stepping softly 
across the grass, as I had learnt to do in pursuit 
of game, and — what do you think she was 
saying ? " 

" I'm sure I don't know. It was a nasty jar for 
you; but you oughtn't to have listened, you know," 
said Mr Polwhele reprovingly. 

" Perhaps I ought not ; but I did ; and this was 
what I heard : 4 1 never can get rid of the impres- 
sion,' Edith said, * that Dick will come back some 
day and claim me. If he does, I must go to him, 
Jack ; I belonged to him before I belonged to you, 
and somehow I can't believe that he has been false 
to me.' " 

"Very creditable sentiments, in my opinion, 
considering that evidence of your faithlessness was 
in her possession. Why didn't you come forward 
without more ado ? " 

44 Because Jack's rejoinder was, 4 But you really 


by Google 


loved me before he went away, didn't you, my 
darling ? ' And to that she replied, * I'm afraid I 
did, Jack ! ' So, you see, there was nothing for it 
but to retire as noiselessly as I had advanced, and 
disappear in the way that I have done." 

" My dear man, I don't see it at all ! " Mr 
Polwhele declared. " On the contrary, your pro- 
ceeding strikes me as utterly preposterous and 
uncalled-for. Let it be granted, if you like, that 
it would have been ungenerous to insist upon your 
rights, and that, as she preferred Leybourne, you 
could only surrender her to him; but you were 
at least entitled to tell your story and explain 
that you had not taken any Sophy Robson to 

" Well, I did not know that I had been accused 
of having done so ; but if I had known, it would 
have made no difference. To reveal myself to 
those two would simply have been to ruin their 
happiness — I was, and am, well enough acquainted 
with them both to feel sure of that — and as for 
my own happiness, such as it is, I consult it better 
by leading the life that I am leading here than by 
resuming my name and returning to a world with 
which I am not precisely in love. Now, Mr 
Polwhele, I have taken you into my confidence, 
and you know why I have done so. Without 
your connivance, my secret would be in momentary 


by Google 


danger of discovery. May I rely upon you to 
keep it?" 

Mr Polwhele, being a sensible man, laid back 
his ears and jibbed. He could hardly do other- 
wise, and it was clearly incumbent upon him to 
argue, as he did for the next quarter of an hour, 
with one whom he inwardly qualified as a fanciful, 
sentimental jackass, but with whom he strove to 
be outwardly respectful and sympathetic. He met 
with no success, and at length his visitor rose, 
saying : — 

"Well, I must not keep you out of bed any 
longer. Will you, at least, promise to inform 
nobody of what I have told you until we have 
discussed the question again ? " 

Mr Polwhele was prepared to promise that 

u Will you swear ? " Grimston persisted. 

" Oh, yes, Til swear if you like," answered the 
old gentleman readily, little suspecting the nature 
of die engagement which he was taking upon 

So Richard Grimston walked down to Penewth 
Harbour, where he had left his boat — and was 
seen no more by man or woman in this world. 
The boat came ashore, bottom upwards, on the 
following day, having been capsized, it was reason- 
able to assume, in one of the squalls which had 


by Google 


preceded a heavy gale; but the body of the 
owner was not recovered. And this was really a 
fortunate thing; because if there had been an 
inquest, questions might have been asked which 
Mr Polwhele would have found it embarrassing 
to answer. 

What was very unfortunate — or, at all events, 
very trying to a naturally loquacious and com- 
municative person — was that Mr Polwhele's lips 
were sealed by an oath which he had taken in a 
hurry. To be sure, no good purpose could have 
been served by divulging the truth to Mr and Mrs 
Leybourne, who were married shortly afterwards, 
and who have the reputation of being a singularly 
happy and devoted couple; still, there have been 
moments in Mr Polwhele's subsequent life when 
he has felt it very hard that he should be precluded 
from speaking freely of the deceased to anybody 
except the man Lucas ; and Lucas, who inherited 
the whole of his late master's property, has long 
ago disappeared from his ken. 

The circumstance that Lucas was able to prove 
a will may possibly explain to the perspicuous 
reader how it has come about that the above 
narrative can now be delivered to the printers; 
but Jack Leybourne has not, so far as the present 
writer knows, searched the records of Somerset 
House; nor, perhaps, will the names of Leybourne, 


by Google 


Grimston, and Polwhele be recognised by those 
whom one would scarcely wish to recognise them. 
It may, however, be added without conspicuous 
indiscretion that the bearer of the latter fictitious 
patronymic is a good deal more comfortable now 
that he has hit upon a method of disburdening his 
mind, while keeping faith with his conscience. 


by Google 


HER intimates, as well as a good many persons 
who could not claim to have been admitted 
to her intimacy, were wont to speak of her hair 
jocularly as the last Lady Adisham. This was 
in part because the title had become extinct on 
the demise of her late husband, and in part because 
she had had two predecessors not less socially 
prominent than herself. The deceased peer, a 
dull and insignificant specimen of his order, must 
have deemed it to his advantage to be provided 
with clever and brilliant wives, since he had 
selected and secured no fewer than three of 
these. He had of course had something, in the 
shape of great wealth, to offer them in return 
for their talents, and the third and last Lady 
Adisham, who had espoused him when he was 
well-nigh moribund, had doubtless made a good 
bargain, although some people affected to be 
shocked at her cynicism. In truth she might, 
had she been so minded, have pleaded excuses — 
the usual excuses. Is it to be expected of a 


by Google 


penniless orphan, confronted by the necessity (and 
the extreme difficulty) of earning her own living, that 
she should refuse a coronet and a large fortune rather 
than to consent to soothe a not unamiable old gentle- 
man's last hours ? Sir Arthur Middleton, for one, 
was of opinion that no blame could fairly be imputed 
to the beautiful and charming Beatrix; and, as he had 
known her all his life, not to mention having been 
in love with her for about two-thirds of it, he was 
perhaps entitled to hold an opinion on the subject. 
To hold and express a high opinion of her was 
almost the only privilege accorded by her ladyship 
to this successful politician, who was still young in 
years, though scarcely so in appearance, and who 
had once upon a time been far too poor and 
obscure to think of offering marriage to the girl 
of his heart. Now that she was a magnificently 
dowered Countess, while he (through an unex- 
pected series of deaths and the painstaking exer- 
cise of his own parliamentary capacities) had not 
only become a well-to-do baronet but a Cabinet 
Minister, there was nothing to prevent him from 
avowing sentiments which he had sedulously kept 
to himself for many years. At the close, there- 
fore, of a certain season and session he did avow 
them, in Lady Adisham's partially darkened Park 
Lane drawing-room, with the result that he was 
laughed at for his pains. 


by Google 


" My dear Arthur," remonstrated the tall, slim, 
reddish-haired lady who had worn so much better 
than he had, and whose smooth white skin bore 
no imprint of the passage of time, "for what do 
you take me ? And for what in the world do you 
take yourself? Ages ago we might, as you say, 
have been a pair of foolish lovers ; but we weren't 
foolish, and we have quite outlived that stage of 
existence. Of course I am flattered and honoured 
and all the rest of it, but really I can't, clever as 
I am, turn a back somersault. Nor can you, clever 
as you are." 

"I don't pretend to be clever," said the First 
Lord of the Admiralty modestly. 

"Don't you? Well, you put forward other 
pretensions which are at least as extravagant. I 
don't say that I should have accepted you if you 
had simply stated in a sensible, businesslike way 
that you wanted a female partner, well qualified 
to receive your guests, take the head of your table 
and push you on in your public career; but I 
should have been willing to consider the sugges- 
tion. What seems to me, saving your presence, to 
display a deplorable lack of discrimination and sense 
of humour is that you should assume, at this time 
of day, the part of an unsophisticated Corydon. 
As for me, I won't attempt to play Phyllis. I 
like my liberty, I like my money, I like what I 


by Google 


am pleased to consider my social and political in- 
fluence. These are substantial advantages which 
I may or may not, some day, be disposed to barter 
for equivalents ; only I shall never — you ought to 
know that as well as anybody — give them away in 
return for pretty speeches which can't take me in 
for an instant." 

"It is you who cannot take me in, Beatrix," 
replied Sir Arthur, smiling. 

He was a grave, swarthy man, slightly bald, 
with a short black beard, in which threads of 
white were visible here and there. Most people 
admitted that he was handsome, but he was too 
silent, too serious and too sparing of the pretty 
speeches which he had just been accused of utter- 
ing to find much favour with members of Lady 
Adisham's sex. 

"You want me," he went on, "to think you 
worldly, ambitious and heartless. Well, I don't 
think you so, and nothing that you can say will 
make me think you so. That you don't love 
me is another matter, easy of belief and not 
at all surprising. But we remain friends, I 

Lady Adisham repressed a gesture of irritation. 
" Oh, by all means, let us remain friends ; and let 
us talk about something else. Mr Coxwell, for 
instance, who interests me immensely. I don't see 


by Google 


why that young Under-Secretary shouldn't end by 
being Premier, do you ? " 

"Coxwell is an able man," said Sir Arthur 

"Good-looking, too, and full of go, which is 
what so many official celebrities seem to be with- 
out. But I can see by the way in which you turn 
down the corners of your mouth that you consider 
him a cad. As if people were required to have 
grandfathers nowadays! Anyhow, I mean to 
shove him on." 

" Is that feasible in a political sense ? Socially, 
it is true, you can do a great deal for him, and I 
believe you have ; but I should doubt the power 
of any lady, however influential, to obtain high 
office for her proteges. Still, I dare say Coxwell 
will rise without outside help, provided that he 
is not in too great a hurry. His rock ahead is 
his tendency to be carried away by his own facile 

Once more Lady Adisham had to bite her 
lips in order to avoid betraying her annoyance. 
"Mr CoxwelPs colleagues, at any rate," she 
remarked, "are not afflicted with that dangerous 
facility. Perhaps some of them wish they 

"I am quite aware that I am no orator," Sir 
Arthur good-humouredly returned; "but really I 


by Google 


am not envious or jealous of Coxwell, if that is 
what you mean." 

" Aren't you ? I should have thought it within 
the bounds of possibility that you might be." 

Her ladyship then yawned, sighed rather wearily 
and glanced in a marked manner at the clock, 
whereupon the First Lord of the Admiralty rose. 

" Must you be off? " she asked. " Well, it is 
nearly time for us all to be off Any chance of 
meeting you at Goodwood or Cowes ? " 

He shook his head. 

" No ; I must stick to work for another week, 
after which I have to address a meeting at Bristol. 
Then I shall be free to go home and rusticate." 

" It doesn't sound a wildly exciting programme ; 
but you are no great lover of excitement, are you ? 
One of the many differences between us is that 
I enjoy nothing half so much. That is why I take 
an interest in Mr Coxwell, whom you neither 
admire nor envy. He is sure to provide his 
seniors with some excitement before he has done 
with them." 

Mr Coxwell was indeed pretty sure to do that. 
Young, talented, pushing and alert, he was deter- 
mined to make his mark, and he knew that an 
Under-Secretary who aspires to develope into a 
Cabinet Minister should above all things cultivate 
notoriety. He cultivated other things and other 


by Google 


people — including Lady Adisham— for he was not 
a man to neglect any opportunity of self-advance- 
ment ; but his chief solicitude was ever to keep his 
name before the public and furnish material for 
leading articles. It was, for instance, just like him 
to favour his constituents, immediately after the 
prorogation, with a harangue which many sup- 
porters of the Conservative party, to which he 
belonged, thought amazingly indiscreet. Indis- 
creet it certainly was, unless Mr Coxwell might 
be regarded as the mouthpiece of the Govern- 
ment — which does not, as a rule, make important 
announcements through the medium of its subor- 
dinate members. With regard to foreign politics, 
Mr Coxwell, though he hinted, not obscurely, at 
sundry momentous probabilities, affected a certain 
reserve ; but what he did assert in so many words 
was that a substantial addition to the fleet had 
become necessary, and that an announcement to 
that effect might be expected on the reassembling 
of Parliament. His audience — a very large one — 
cheered vociferously, for it happened that the 
British public was just then in one of its recur- 
rent fits of panic, and an impression prevailed in 
many quarters that our potential fighting strength 
had been suffered to fell perilously low. 

The desired outburst of leading articles promptly 
followed. Not all of them were complimentary to 


by Google 


the young orator ; yet they had to treat him with 
some degree of seriousness, since he was, at any 
rate, an official personage, and thus it was his 
privilege to render the opening days of the dull 
season quite lively. The question, of course, 
was whether Mr Coxwell was authorised or 
not, and the answer could not but be supplied 
in the forthcoming speech of the First Lord at 

Now whether Sir Arthur Middleton disappointed 
his Bristol hearers or not by the painstaking, care- 
fully prepared address which he duly delivered to 
them on the appointed date, it is certain that he 
administered a somewhat severe snub to his juve- 
nile colleague, whose recent utterances he totally 
ignored. Sir Arthur was an advocate of retrench- 
ment, and he produced an imposing array of facts 
and figures in support of the faith that was in him. 
The requirements of the Navy, he very reasonably 
pointed out, must of necessity depend upon what 
our neighbours might deem to be the requirements 
of theirs, and no one could pretend to foretell the 
events even of the immediate future ; but he be- 
lieved he had said enough to show that our actual 
position was one of adequate security. He was 
glad to be able to add that there was no present 
indication whatsoever of a disturbance of European 


by Google 


Sir Arthur was not eloquent, but he was con- 
sidered a pre-eminently safe man ; moreover, there 
could be no doubt that he at all events spoke with 
the approval and sanction of the Cabinet. Con- 
sequently, Mr Coxwell was roughly handled by 
the journalists, some of whom recommended him 
to bridle his tongue, while others went so far 
as to suggest that his resignation would be desir- 
able and appropriate. He showed his sense by 
taking the advice of the former ; as for resigning 
office, the Prime Minister, who chanced to be 
abroad at the time, was the only person who could 
impose upon him a step towards which he felt by 
no means inclined. The newspapers soon found 
something else to talk about, and, if the incident 
was not forgotten, it ceased to be publicly dis- 
cussed. Mr Coxwell, being blessed with a thick 
skin, an excellent digestion and a good temper, 
probably saw little to regret or resent in it. 

But although that promising young statesman's 
withers were unwrung, as much could not be said 
for Lady Adisham, who was very angry indeed 
with her old friend and admirer, and who saw 
in his contemptuous disregard of a pronouncement 
which had secured so much attention a deliberate, 
premeditated design to wreck his rival's career. 
In what sense Mr Coxwell was to be regarded 
as Sir Arthur's rival her ladyship best knew ; but 


by Google 


it was as such that she inwardly described him, 
while resolving to defeat his supposed intentions. 

" Of course he did it on purpose ! " she wrath- 
fully exclaimed. "That sort of thing isn't done 
by mistake; and it is always his way to affect 
a sublime superiority and indifference. He thinks 
he can afford it. Well — we shall see ! " 

The stalwart, handsome, rather florid-looking 
man whom she addressed displayed his white 

u So long as you do me the honour to take 
my side, Lady Adisham, I shall feel that neither 
Middleton nor anybody else can work me much 
injury," he gallantly declared. 

"Ah, but that is not his opinion. He laughs 
at the idea that a mere woman can count at all 
in political combinations. And there is a com- 
bination against you, remember. Sir Arthur is 
not the only member of the Cabinet who would 
be glad enough to dismiss you into private life. 
Nobody, I suppose, is particularly eager to be 
extinguished by the rising sun." 

Mr Coxwell shrugged his shoulders. "I won't 
call myself the rising sun," he modestly remarked ; 
"but perhaps I may say, without undue vanity, 
that I am a rising man, and I doubt whether there 
is a sufficient supply of rising men in our party 
to warrant the leaders in shunting me." 


by Google 


" Anyhow, they will do their best to keep you 
back; and if your interests are not looked after 

now But they shall be looked after. I am 

going to Homburg next week." 

It was upon the deck of a yacht in Cowes 
Roads that Lady Adisham made the above sig- 
nificant announcement. She did not mention 
whether her proposed visit to a watering-place 
where the Prime Minister was seeking health and 
repose had been previously contemplated or not, 
and her companion discreetly refrained from ques- 
tioning her. But his bow, his smile and a 
prolonged gaze of his audacious black eyes 
expressed gratitude, admiration — possibly some- 
thing more into the bargain. With regard to 
her influence in high quarters he may have been 
almost as sceptical as Sir Arthur Middleton ; but 
what was evident, and far from unwelcome to him, 
was that a lady whom even he, bold as he was, 
had not yet ventured to approach with serious 
addresses was about to commit herself somewhat 
deeply on his behalf. Therefore all he said was : — 

" Ah ! I wish / were going to Homburg ! " 

" Oh, you can't do that," returned Lady Adisham 
decisively ; " you must stay at home — and stick to 
your guns. Don't make any more speeches ; only 
let it be understood, when you see an opportunity, 
that you withdraw nothing." 


by Google 


Mr Coxwell smiled again. He had already de- 
cided to adopt those tactics; but discretion once 
more deterred him from saying so. It suited him 
very well, for the time being, to accept the part of 
this clever, active and self-confident woman's dis- 
ciple, notwithstanding his belief that he was quite 
capable of playing his own cards in his own way. 

Now, although he was pretty sure of himself, 
and Lady Adisham was at least equally sure of 
herself, the truth was that success was anything 
but a certainty for either of them. All, in short, 
depended upon whether Mr Coxwell, who had 
not precisely won the affection of his chiefs, was 
indispensable or not, and experience proves that 
very few people indeed are indispensable. Lady 
Adisham, tripping lightly up to the First Lord of 
the Treasury, in the vicinity of the Elizabethan 
spring at Homburg, one fine morning, was received 
with much cordiality by that nobleman, but was 
assured, before she had been five minutes in con- 
versation with him, that if there was a subject 
upon which he really had nothing to say and 
would fain forget, it was contemporary British 

"I never read the English newspapers when I 
am abroad," he declared; "still less do I think 
of perusing other people's speeches. It is so easy 
not to look at them ! " 


by Google 


" But you must know," persisted Lady Adisham, 
" what Mr Coxwell and Sir Arthur Middleton have 
been saying. They are absolutely at variance; 
they couldn't be more at variance! Indeed, it just 
comes to this, that one or other of them will have 
to knock under." 

"Really?" said the Prime Minister, with raised 
eyebrows. " Dear me ! Then I suppose Coxwell 
will have to knock under. That will do him no 

"If he prefers to resign, harm will be done, 
not only to him, but to the party," Lady Adisham 
valiantly asserted. "Besides," she added, "I don't 
want him to resign." 

" Ah, that is serious ! " 

"I am perfectly serious; though you are so 
rude as to laugh at me. I regard the whole thing 
as a personal matter. Sir Arthur Middleton only 
spoke as he did in order to annoy me, and because 
he knows that Mr Coxwell is a friend of mine." 

" How disgraceful of him ! " 

" Well, it was foolish of him, and I should like 
to convince him that it was. You see how frank 

The Prime Minister laughed. "But, my dear 
lady, why is Mr Coxwell a friend of yours ? My 
acquaintance with him is as yet slight ; but isn't he 
rather " 


by Google 


"Oh, perhaps. Not so very, though — not to 
any extent that signifies. And he is prodigiously 
clever; added to which he has popular opinion 
at his back." 

" If he has popular opinion at his back, he will 
not require even your powerful advocacy ; but our 
rulers are given to changing their minds from one 
moment to another. Meanwhile, what step do you 
wish me to take ? Am I to make a public declara- 
tion that we, too, have not quite made up our 
minds yet, and that neither Middleton nor Coxwell 
can tell what may be our future policy ? " 

" Of course not ! All I want you to promise is 
that you won't be persuaded to squash Mr Coxwell. 
Then we shall be all right up to next February, 
which is a long time hence. All sorts of things may 
happen before next February." 

u Very true. Then I will promise not to squash 
your friend, upon two conditions: firstly, you are 
not to mention his name to me again; and 
secondly, you are to dine with us at the Cursaal 
this evening." 

" Every evening, if you like 1 " cried her ladyship 

This was generous of her; because the Prime 
Minister's wife was a terrible old bore, of whom 
the smarter and livelier persons whose society she 
had looked forward to enjoying were wont to fight 


by Google 


shy. But in the cause of friendship some sacrifices 
must be incurred. Let us hope that the Prime 
Minister, at all events, was preserved from bore- 
dom by the concession which he had earned. 
The concession which he himself had made was 
perhaps less important than Lady Adisham took 
it to be. He did not, it may be assumed, wish 
to throw over a subordinate who was brilliant in 
debate and even more so upon the platform ; very 
likely, too, he was waiting (for such was his habit) 
to ascertain which way the wind blew before shap- 
ing the course of the vessel of State tfirough another 
parliamentary session. If so, the language of the 
newspapers during the recess, and the reception 
accorded in late autumn to a cautious oration 
from his own lips, probably furnished him with 
the desired information. The country, it seemed, 
was becoming uneasy; a conviction was gaining 
ground that recent negotiations with foreign Powers 
had not resulted in a triumph for British diplomacy, 
and the man in the street was beginning to assert, 
with his customary emphasis, that if we had not as 
many ships as we ought to have, somebody de- 
served hanging. At the Lord Mayor's banquet, 
which the Premier was unfortunately prevented by 
indisposition from attending, Sir Arthur Middleton 
took occasion to affirm once more that the Fleet 
was efficient and sufficient — a statement which was 


by Google 


promptly disputed, not only by the Opposition 
press, but by several organs which usually sup- 
ported the Government. All this told against a 
policy of retrenchment and in favour of Mr Cox- 
well, who had skilfully contrived to insinuate, 
without once opening his mouth in public, that 
he would be found a true prophet, as well as an 
enlightened patriot. 

Shortly after Christmas this fortunate and 
favoured young statesman was one of a large 
number of guests who had assembled at Adisham 
Court for sporting and other purposes. He was 
not, to be sure, very much of a sportsman ; but 
one cannot be everything, and no doubt his com- 
parative ineptitude with a gun or across country 
left him all the more available for the other 
purposes alluded to. If amongst these his hostess 
had meant to include an encounter with the First 
Lord of the Admiralty, whom she had rather 
mischievously invited to join her party, she was 
disappointed; for Sir Arthur wrote to excuse 
himself, candidly owning that he preferred not to 
stay in the same house with Mr Coxwell. 

This her ladyship chose to construe as an ad- 
mission of defeat, and it ought therefore to have 
pleased her, instead of making her quite cross 
and snappish for a whole morning. She was 
not, however, cross with Mr Coxwell; on the 


by Google 


contrary, she became, if possible, more gracious 
than ever towards one who was believed to stand 
already very well indeed with her. Of course he 
was going to propose to her. Everybody, including 
Lady Adisham herself, knew that, and everybody, 
except Lady Adisham, thought it rather a pity 
that she should have given him so much encourage- 
ment. When an old friend went the length of 
telling her as much, she innocently inquired : — 

"Where does the pity come in? Do you 
mean that my accepting him or my refusing him 
would be a matter for regret ? Either, perhaps ? 
Well, I am sorry to distress you ; but I am afraid 
it looks as if I should have to do the one or the 

She was really in some doubt as to which 
alternative she meant to choose. She was 
assuredly not in love with the man, nor was 
he quite a gentleman, nor did his present social 
position correspond in any way with that of the 
last Lady Adisham. On the other hand, he was 
almost sure of climbing to the top of the tree 
— would be absolutely sure of doing so, she 
flattered herself, as her husband ; and he was 
touchingly devoted to her. Moreover, there 
would be a certain satisfaction in proving to 
Arthur Middleton that the rival whom he so 
ostentatiously disdained was capable of cutting 


by Google 


him out all round. It is not at all unlikely that 
the fortunate Mr Coxwell would have added a 
titled bride to his other advantages had he not, 
in an evil hour for him, been commanded to 
accompany her ladyship to a large neighbour- 
ing town, where she had consented to open a 

He did his best, it is true, to get off joining 
that particular party; for the town in question 
happened to be his birthplace, and amongst its 
inhabitants were several persons whom he was 
by no means anxious to meet. But Lady Adisham 
was not fond of being thwarted or disobeyed ; so 
he was fain to bow to her peremptory assertion 
that a change of scene would be the best thing 
in the world for the headache which he pleaded. 
Thus it came to pass that, in the course of the 
day, he found himself unable to avoid an inter- 
view which was not less painful to him than to 
the extremely pretty young woman who demanded 

Lady Adisham's observant eyes took note of 
that young woman, to whom she sold some rubbish 
or other, and who gazed at her with a sort of 
distressed fascination ; took note also of the circum- 
stance that, immediately after her appearance in 
front of the central stall, Mr Coxwell's headache 
became so bad that he was compelled to excuse 


by Google 


himself hurriedly and make for the railway station ; 
perceived finally (with the aid of a pair of opera- 
glasses) that her indisposed guest and the unknown, 
who had exchanged no signs of recognition, left 
the large hall in which the bazaar was being held 
together — so close together, indeed, that one of 
them seemed to be whispering into the other's 
ear. Clearly, this was a case which demanded 
investigation. Her ladyship lost no time in leaving 
the care of the stall over which she was presiding 
to her coadjutors, threaded her way through the 
crowd with as little delay as the greetings of 
numerous acquaintances whom she encountered 
on her passage would admit, and so emerged at 
length into a gloomy, well-nigh deserted vestibule. 
Upon a bench in its darkest corner she detected 
at a glance the girlish figure of which she was 
in quest, while the simultaneous flutter of Mr 
CoxwelFs departing coat-tails through the swing- 
ing doors which opened upon the street seemed to 
explain the unconcealed emotion of his late com- 
panion, whose face was buried in her pocket- 

Lady Adisham was not jealous, nor, to tell the 
truth, was she much shocked. She held opinions, 
grounded upon experience, with regard to the 
habitual ways of men, and really she cared very 
little whether Mr Coxwell resembled the majority 


by Google 


of his genus in certain respects or not. Neverthe- 
less, there are complications of a class with which 
it is sometimes just as well to be acquainted; 
so she did not hesitate to approach the Niobe on 
the wooden bench. 

" I am afraid you are not well," she said gently. 
" Can I do anything for you ? " 

The girl dropped her hands, recognised hei 
questioner with a startled cry of consternation, 
and made as though she would fly precipitately. 
But a firm little hand clasped her wrist, a smell- 
ing-bottle was thrust under her nose, and a voice, 
which could be as soft and persuasive as any in 
the three kingdoms, murmured, "Tell me all about 
it ! I am sure you ought to tell somebody, and I 
am quite safe." 

There are philosophic students of human nature 
who aver that no woman is quite safe ; just as a 
Hebrew psalmist declared, once upon a time, that 
all men are liars — and has himself, justly or un- 
justly, rested under the imputation of being a 
liar ever since. Perhaps Lady Adisham was not 
worthy of the unreserved confidence which she 
solicited; but she was, at any rate, an adept in 
the art of obtaining what she desired. Annie 
Sherwood (this, it appeared, was the young lady's 
name, and she was the daughter of a respectable 
local attorney) required some pressing, yet ended 


by Google 


by yielding to applied pressure and narrating her 
sad and simple story from start to finish. It was 
not exactly the sort of story for which her 
sympathising hearer had been prepared; but that 
did not render it any the less affecting. Robert 
Coxwell, who had wooed and won her years ago, 
and at whom, in those days of his poverty and 
obscurity, her prudent provincial parents had 
refused to look, was not, strictly speaking, liable 
to an action for breach of promise. Since he 
had been turned away from her father's door 
and forbidden to regard himself as engaged to 
her father's daughter, he was in no way bound 
to renew an offer which would, of course, have 
been welcomed in view of the altered circum- 
stances, nor could one who had relied implicitly 
upon his fidelity complain of him for having 
written to her as he had recently done. For all 
that, she had been, not unnaturally, anxious to 
discover why, if he still loved her (as he had 
vowed that he did), he should deem it imperative 
upon him to abandon her. Her curiosity had 
been fully and candidly gratified. 

44 1 guessed what the truth must be," she said, 
44 and he told me the whole truth in a very few 
words. Robert was never one to prevaricate or 
shelter himself behind false pretences. I couldn't 
spoil his career; though he did give me the 


by Google 


chance, and would give it me again, I believe, if 
I were to ask him. I see as plainly as he does 
what an aristocratic marriage will do for him ; so 
I won't stand in his way, and he is as free to marry 
you as if I had never been born. Only he does 
love me ! " 

" Do you really think so ? " Lady Adisham 
asked. "Do you think that he would calmly 
throw you over if he loved you ? " 

"He wasn't calm! And I don't think about 
it — I am sure ! " the girl cried. She added, with 
tardy compunction, "But I ought not to say so 
to you." 

" Oh, don't mind me," her ladyship smilingly 
returned; "strange as it may appear to you, I 
have not lost my heart to Mr Coxwell. Perhaps 
he represented that I had ? " 

He had been guilty of that — possibly sincere 
— misrepresentation. Misrepresentations are more 
often than is usually admitted the result of an 
honest incapacity to distinguish between feet and 
fency, and it may be that Lady Adisham her- 
self was the victim of that very common form 
of blindness when she pointed out the importance, 
from Mr Coxwell's standpoint, of maintaining a 
little longer the fiction that he was about to 
espouse a lady so distinguished as herself. 

" It is absurd of him," she said ; " but I forgive 


by Google 


him, and I continue to take an interest in him. 
Consequently, we will wait, if you please, until 
he has put his opponents to confusion and won 
his way to a position from which he may safely 
stoop to select any bride he likes. You are sure 
that he does not strike you as being rather — a 

Miss Sherwood flushed indignantly. "A cur! 
You know he is not! — you know he is a great 

"H'm! Suppose we say a big man — which 
means the same thing in one sense, and not quite 
the same in another. For the matter of that, I 
dare say he is no worse than his neighbours. 
They are all alike — or almost all. Now you 
must dry your eyes, like a good girl, give me 
your address, and bide your time. Soon after 
Parliament meets you shall hear from me, and 
soon after that, unless I am much mistaken, you 
will hear from your repentant Robert." 

The above colloquy, initiated in the vestibule 
of the Town Hall, was concluded beneath the bare 
boughs of the trees in the adjoining public gardens, 
whither Lady Adisham had conducted her newly 
found protigte. It was now high time for her 
to rejoin her friends and hasten homewards. 
By means of what subsequent strategy she con- 
trived to stave off Mr CoxwelTs imminent proposal 


by Google 


it is needless to relate; she would have been a 
much less able tactician than she was had she 
experienced any difficulty in accomplishing that 
much. She would likewise have been quite 
abnormally magnanimous if she had not plumed 
herself a good deal upon her magnanimity and 
resolved to make her plebeian suitor look, in the 
sequel, like the fool that he was. 

To the public eye Mr Coxwell looked anything 
but a fool when it became known, immediately 
prior to the opening of the session, that largely 
increased naval expenditure had been decided upon^ 
and that the First Lord of the Admiralty, dissent- 
ing from the view of his colleagues, had resigned 
office. The voice of the people had given forth 
no uncertain sound, Ministers were submissively 
acquiescent, and, although the news of Sir Arthur 
Middleton's retirement was received with a sort 
of regret destime, it was generally felt that the 
country could do rather better without him than 
with him. The appointment of so young and in- 
experienced a politician as Mr Coxwell to fill his 
vacant place was pronounced sensational, and some 
of the graver newspapers doubted its expediency ; 
yet knowing persons, or persons who wished to be 
thought knowing, expressed no surprise. Coxwell 
was powerfully backed, they declared, and he did 
not owe his rapid advancement to his talents alone, 


by Google 


undeniable as they were. Lady Adisham, at any 
rate, was to be excused for assuming that the 
triumph in which she shared had been brought 
about by her own unceasing exertions. As a 
victory, it was, in truth, dramatically complete, 
and how was she to know that her exertions had 
really done rather more harm than good to her 
candidate? There are men, like Sir Arthur 
Middleton, who rise to high office by reason of 
their sterling qualities ; and there are others, like 
Mr Coxwell, who have office — and comparative 
discretion — thrust upon them because their un- 
fettered eloquence is so apt to embarrass their 
right honourable friends. The Premier, who was 
much attached to the late First Lord of the 
Admiralty, neither liked nor trusted his successor ; 
but the obstinacy of the one and the self-assertion 
of the other had produced results which there was 
nothing for it but to accept with a shrug of the 

In any case, Sir Arthur Middleton had been 
pretty handsomely beaten, and, that being so, 
what could be more natural than that Lady 
Adisham should invite him to dinner ? " I haven't 
asked Mr Coxwell to meet you this time," she 
considerately added in a postscript. 

As a matter of fact, she had not asked anybody 
to meet him ; for she looked forward to conferring 


by Google 


with him in private, and of course she was of an 
age to be her own chaperon. On similar grounds 
she was free to receive Sir Arthur's supplanter 
when and where she pleased, and that gentleman 
(with whom she also looked forward to holding a 
brief conference) obediently presented himself in 
Park Lane on the afternoon of the day appointed 
for her tite-a^tete dinner. 

Mr Coxwell knew, or thought he knew, why 
he had been summoned. Perhaps that accounted 
for the visible fact that his habitual self-possession 
had deserted him, and explained the confused, if 
profuse, assurances of gratitude which he made 
haste to offer to his benefactress. Well, a little 
diffidence was not unbecoming, under all the 
circumstances, although it would have answered 
Lady Adisham's purpose somewhat better had he 
seen fit to assume the air of a conqueror. 

" Oh, that is all right ! " she ended by interrupt- 
ing impatiently. " I am glad to have been of use 
to you, and I am glad that you recognise my poor 
services. Now, the question is, what practical 
acknowledgment are you prepared to make of 
them ? You have been wise enough to take my 
advice hitherto; will you continue to be guided 
by it, and believe me when I tell you that the 
one thing still needed to make your social, as well 
as your political, position solid is — a wife ? " 


by Google 


Mr Coxwell grinned nervously and wiped his 
forehead with his handkerchief, although it was a 
cold day. "Lady Adisham," he stammered, "I 
feel the full force of what you say. Nobody can 
be more conscious than I am of the great advantage 
that it would be to me to — to — in short, to act 
upon your very flattering and — - er — tempting 
suggestion. But the truth — which I can only 
throw myself upon your mercy and confess — is 
that I am not free. As a very young man, I fell 
in love with and offered marriage to a girl in a 
somewhat humble station of life, who returned my 
affection, but whose parents did not at the time 
consider me a good enough match for her. I was 
therefore at liberty, when I rose in the world, to 
treat bygones as bygones and pay my addresses in 
another and more exalted quarter, where I had 
reason to believe that they would not be un- 
welcome. I resolved to do this ; I even went so 
far as to tell the girl what seemed to be the fact — 
namely, that my prospects depended upon my 
doing it, and to accept my release at her hands. 
But — what can I say? I find that, after all, I 
haven't the courage, or the selfishness, or what- 
ever it ought to be called, to play her false. My 
first love is my only love, and, happen what may, 
I cannot give her up." 

If there was at that moment a thoroughly dis- 


by Google 


comfited woman in London, it was the last Lady 
Adisham. She had rehearsed with so much antici- 
pated glee the scene in which Mr Coxwell, after 
willingly swearing to espouse the bride whom she 
should select for him, was to be informed that her 
choice had fallen, not upon herself, but upon a far 
less distinguished person. And now here was this 
ridiculous snob trembling and apologising because, 
notwithstanding his snobbishness, he could not 
quite bring himself to obey her ! A more irritat- 
ing anticlimax could scarcely have been conceived ; 
yet she managed to keep her countenance. 

"You allude, of course, " said she, "to Miss 
Annie Sherwood." 

Mr Coxwell started and gasped. " Yes ; but — 
how in the world do you come to know anything 
about her ? " 

" Oh, I know a great many things. Well, you 
have anticipated me. I was just about to tell you 
that a Cabinet Minister should, if possible, be a 
married man, and that the only suitable wife for 
you, in my opinion, is the girl who has been rather 
more faithful to you than you have been to her. 
I don't blame you for having waited until you had 
reached the top of the tree before gratifying your 
romantic inclinations. That shows your worldly 
wisdom; and I dare say you had incentives not 
known to me. I only hope that you have not 


by Google 


seriously committed yourself in the exalted quarter 
of which you spoke just now." 

Mr Coxwell, in some bewilderment and con- 
fusion, replied that he had not. He was dis- 
posed to believe that he might have been mistaken 
with regard to the sentiments of the lady in 

" I should think that was not unlikely," observed 
Lady Adisham musingly. " You see, Mr Coxwell, 
there are plenty of people — I myself am one ot 
them — who are attracted by promising young 
members of Parliament and interested in their 
career. But class distinctions do exist, don't they ? 
And taking an interest in a man, or even making 
a friend of him, is such a very different thing from 
marrying him." 

The administering of that small snub was, it 
may be hoped, some consolation to her. It was 
likewise a consolation to reflect that, although he 
would inevitably be made the recipient of Annie 
Sherwood's full confession, he would never learn 
how nearly he had approached success in a peculiarly 
audacious project. 

"The fact of your having taken so preposterous 
a notion into your head only shows that the 
cleverest men are often astoundingly stupid," Lady 
Adisham remarked, some hours later, to the solitary 
guest who permitted himself to inquire whether he 


by Google 


was to congratulate her upon her impending re- 

Sir Arthur Middleton modestly disclaimed the 
imputation of being a clever man. Talent, he 
observed, is scarcely displayed by getting oneself 
definitively relegated to private life. 

"Well, you are an honest one, anyhow," his 
hostess generously declared. 

" Thank you ; yes, I believe I may call myself 
honest. So, no doubt, is Coxwell, in addition to 
being clever. That you are extremely clever is 
notorious, and what, I suppose, furnishes one more 
proof of my being extremely stupid is that I can't 
for the life of me understand why you have been 
moving heaven and earth to convert him into what 
he is when you had no intention of marrying him." 

Lady Adisham's eyes sparkled. "You admit, 
then, that it is I who have converted him into what 
he is ? " she cried triumphantly. 

" At the risk of giving offence to an old friend, 
I am afraid I can't quite admit that. He swims 
while I sink, simply because he is buoyant, whereas 
I am heavy. But I admit that you have thrown 
him all the cork-jackets and spars you could lay 
hands upon; and, as I said before, I can't make 
out why." 

"Then all I can say is that you really are stupid! 
Surely you might have guessed that my motive was 


by Google 


to humble your provoking, obstinate pride in the 

Sir Arthur raised his eyebrows. " Really ? Well, 
I have been satisfactorily rolled in the dust, whether 
you were instrumental or not in inflicting that 
humiliation upon me. But why should you have 
wished to humiliate me? Is that another stupid 
question ? " 

Lady Adisham was decidedly of opinion that it 
was; but she did not say so. She remained 
silent for a few moments ; after which she asked 
abruptly : " And what are you going to do now ? " 

He shrugged his shoulders. " Plant my cabbages, 
I suppose." 

"You give up the game like that!" she ex- 
claimed impatiently. u Do you really not care, 
then, or is it a pose ? " 

" It only remained for you to accuse me of being 
a poseur. Some months ago I was told that I had 
neither discrimination nor sense of humour, and 
that I couldn't take you in for an instant." 

" To which you rejoined that it was I who could 
not take you in." 

"Well, I withdraw and apologise. You have 
completely taken me in, if that is the same thing 
as having puzzled and mystified me. I imagined 
that you had ambitions which you appear to re- 
pudiate. As for me, I plead guilty to having 


by Google 


cherished ambitions of a sober order, and I won't 
pretend to have given up the game without some 
regrets. But you say that I am honest as well as 
stupid, and one must needs pay the penalty of 
being both." 

" Do you know," said Lady Adisham, " I think 
I rather prefer your stupidity to Mr Coxwell's 

"In that case," returned the ex-Minister gallantly, 
U I regret nothing. Except, indeed," he added 
presently, with a smothered sigh, "what I must 
regret to my dying day — that you not only can't 
care for me as I do for you, but that you rather 
dislike me. I can see no other explanation of your 
wish to extinguish what you are pleased to call 
my pride." 

" Not even when the explanation stares you in 
the face ? Not even when you force me to pocket 
my own pride and tell you in so many words that 
— I don't dislike you ? As if one would take such 
infinite pains to vex a person whom one disliked ! 
Would you like to hear Mr Coxwell's vulgar little 
story ? When he was an impecunious young man, 
he lost his heart to an equally impecunious young 
woman, whom, of course, he couldn't marry. So 
they wept and parted. But now that he is a 
personage with a big salary and rosy prospects, he 
isn't too proud to return to his first love, and he 


by Google 


is about to lead her to the altar. Do you trace 
any similarity between his case and yours ? " 

Sir Arthur shook his head wonderingly. "None 
at all," he answered. " My prospects are the re- 
verse of rosy, and I have never, as it happens, been 
false to my first and last and only love." 

"Well," returned Lady Adisham, with something 
between a laugh and a sob, " since you won't eat 
humble pie, I suppose I must. Your first and last 
and only love may have been false to you, or tried 
to be ; but I doubt whether she was ever really 
false, and — she isn't going to try any more. Now 
do you understand ? " 

Owing to the combination of qualities which she 
had ascribed to him, it is not quite certain that he 
did; but what is a matter of recent and undeniable 
history is that Sir Arthur Middleton and the last 
Lady Adisham were united in the bonds of holy 
matrimony before the end of the season. Her 
ladyship is persuaded that her husband's official 
career is by no means at an end, and that she will 
eventually contrive to secure for him a post not 
less important than that which his scruples com- 
pelled him to relinquish. If this be an illusion, 
she is at least the happier for entertaining it ; so 
that it need not be grudged to her. 


by Google 


THE weather had been sultry and oppressive, 
even at a height of two thousand feet above 
the sea-level, throughout that long day of early 
summer; but now that the thunder-clouds had 
broken and had rolled away southwards over Spain, 
gusts of cool wind were sweeping down from the 
mountains into the narrow valley where Bagneres 
de Luchon stands ; and the visitors to that bright 
little watering-place, harbingers of the opening 
season, who had already established themselves 
there, were stepping forth to breathe the fresh 
air and listen to the band. Fran§oise Peyrafitte, 
released at the hour of sunset from her mother's 
tiny shop, which did a very modest business by the 
sale of woollen shawls, mufflers, stockings and other 
achievements of indefatigable knitting-pins, tripped 
past these strangers, many of whom turned their 
heads to take a second look at her; for she was really 
a very pretty and attractive little figure, with her 
clear brown complexion, her large dark eyes and her 
black hair, which was partially concealed, after the 
Pyrenean fashion, by a parti-coloured handkerchief. 



by Google 


Frangoise did not return the compliment. She 
had no desire to gaze at these newly arrived 
tourists, who represented for her the close of the 
quiet, peaceful winter-time and the renewal of her 
labours as one of the chambermaids at the H6tel 
des Bains, whither she was to repair once more on 
the morrow. Such labours, with all that they 
implied and entailed, were little to her taste ; but 
when one has a widowed mother and a swarm of 
small brothers and sisters, one must accept with 
resignation, if not with thankfulness, any means of 
earning bread that may be obtainable. 

" Levavi oculos ad montes" she murmured under 
her breath as she hastened along the high-road, at 
the end of which, far away, towered the Port de 
Venasque, a cleft in the purple frontier range — " I 
will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence 
cometh my help." 

She did not know in the least what signification 
the Hebrew psalmist had attached to words which 
had floated down through the centuries to find an 
echo in the heart of a devout little Bearnaise 
maiden ; but they had always had a pleasant, com- 
forting sound to her. She had always regarded 
the beloved mountains as a shelter and defence, 
vaguely realising that beyond them lay a busy, 
wicked, relentless world, from whose beckoning 
signals she shrank back affrighted. Sooner or 


by Google 


later she would, perhaps, have to arise and obey 
that imperative call (for old Madame Peyrafitte 
had already begun to point out that four months of 
wages against eight of hibernation would scarcely 
do as a permanent arrangement) ; but for the 
moment she was thinking less of herself than of 
somebody else, whom the outer world, it seemed, 
could no longer spare. 

Presently, with a loud clatter of hoofs, he came 
in sight, cantering at the head of his awkward 
squad of mounted pleasure-seekers, male and 
female — as handsome a young specimen of his 
class as could have been found between the 
Atlantic and the Mediterranean shores — bright- 
eyed, hook-nosed, sitting gracefully upon his 
spirited little horse, and an agreeable object to the 
artistic eye in his short velvet jacket, his broad 
scarlet sash and his becoming beret of the same 
vivid hue. Among the numerous equestrian guides 
of Luchon, Dominique Barraute stood upon a high 
pinnacle of favour, by reason of his good looks and 
his engaging manners. He was doing very well 
indeed for so young a man, and might, but for the 
tax which France levies in these days upon all her 
sons, have looked forward shortly to setting up 
a stable of his own, instead of hiring himself out 
to Esterrade, the local maquignon. But service of 
at least a year with the colours has become an in- 


by Google 


exorable necessity, and Dominique, with many an- 
other lad who would perhaps never return, was to 
leave the very next day. 

He rose in his stirrups, cracking his whip above 
his head, as Frangoise stepped aside to let the 
noisy cavalcade pass ; over his shoulder he threw 
a backward glance, showing his white teeth. He 
had seen her ; he had understood ; and she knew 
that she would not have to wait for him very long. 

In less than a quarter of an hour, indeed, he had 
joined her on the thickly wooded hillside behind 
the Etablissement Thermal, where they were wont 
to meet at the close of day. For months past they 
had been in the habit of keeping these tacit, inno- 
cent assignations ; yet they were not formally be- 
trothed, nor had they ever conversed save upon the 
most commonplace topics — the weather, the pro- 
spect of a lucrative season, the ailments of the 
Peyrafitte children, and so forth. With the 
strange, half-savage shyness and reticence of 
peasants, they had been content to halt there, 
each secretly assured of the other's love, but 
drawing back from the plunge of an open de- 
claration, which, in truth, there was not money 
enough on either side to justify. 

On this occasion, however — which differed so 
sadly, by its final character, from all preceding 
ones — such an attitude could hardly be main- 


by Google 


tained. They began, to be sure, in their cus- 
tomary detached style. "So, then, you take the 
train to-morrow morning, Dominique ? " " Eh ! 
what would you have ? Since one has no choice ! 
And you begin again at the Hotel des Bains ? " 
u Yes; the time has come." But after this there 
was a short pause, which was concluded in a 
manner to render verbal eloquence superfluous. 

" You know," sighed Fnuujoise, lifting her head 
at length from her lover's black velvet shoulder 
and looking up into his bronzed healthy face, 
" that my mother will never give her consent ! " 

u We will make so free as to do without 
it," returned Dominique, laughing triumphantly. 
"Are we asking her to support us, then — your 

There certainly would not have been very much 
use in asking Madame Peyrafitte to do that; but 
her view happened to be that her children were 
bound to contribute to her support, and if the 
eldest of them was to espouse the son of a tipsy 
old loafer who had saved nothing at all, what 
likelihood was there of filial obligations being 
discharged? That she would oppose so rash a 
betrothal was certain, and Fran£oise was but par- 
tially reassured by the young fellow's confident 
predictions. According to him, there was nothing 
to fear, except unavoidable delay. When once he 


by Google 


had served his time — an aflair of two years, per- 
haps, " but we are both young, allez ! " — he would 
return to the mountains, never to quit their friendly 
shadow again ; and as for making money, that was 
as simple a matter as flattering these Parisian ladies 
and gentlemen, who threw away their louts like sous. 
He displayed a couple of gold pieces in the palm 
of his hand, smiling retrospectively at the facility 
with which they had been acquired. 

" One has but to look at them — at the ladies 
especially — in a certain way and to pay them — 
Dieu me pardonne ! — a few compliments which 
they do not merit upon their riding, and the trick 
is done. Oh, we shall not want for bread, you 
and I, Frangoise; you may take my word for 

Frangoise was not sure that she quite liked her 
Dominique to look at ladies in the manner alluded 
to; but as, after all, his heart belonged to her 
alone, why should she care ? Soon she resolutely 
banished the doubts and misgivings of which she 
had mentioned only one. Why meet trouble half 
way and spoil a flying hour of happiness which 
could not possibly repeat itself for many a long 
day to come? At the bottom of her heart she 
was conscious of a determination at least equal 
to her mother's, and Dominique swore — without 
even waiting to be asked — that he would remain 


by Google 


faithful to her through all the as yet unknown 
temptations of military life. 

His arm still encircled her waist when they 
slowly quitted the woods in the twilight, and in 
this compromising posture they were caught by a 
stout, elderly, red-faced man, who lurched out on 
a sudden from behind the Etablissement as they 
approached that building. He greeted them with 
a loud peal of laughter, followed by jocularities 
which, though good-humoured enough, were not 
of the most refined description. 

" Pay no attention to him," said Dominique, a 
little disconcerted ; " he would not wish to offend 
you if he knew what he was about. But you 
understand — my last day at home, and the friends 
who have looked in to drink a glass and wish me 
good speed — it is not surprising that he should 
have opened a bottle too many." 

Under no circumstances could it be accounted 
surprising that old Barraute, the most notorious 
drunkard in Luchon, should have erred after the 
fashion alluded to, nor was Frangoise offended. 
She was, however, somewhat put out of counte- 
nance and apprehensive. One never knows of 
what indiscretions a man in that condition may 
not be capable! 

Half an hour later (for Dominique and Fran§oise, 
like Romeo and Juliet, took a long time to bid one 


by Google 


another good-night), she learned, to her horror, 
that the indiscretion of old Barraute had been 
carried to quite unexpected lengths. Madame 
Peyrafitte, her strongly marked features distorted 
by wrath and her black eyes blazing beneath her 
dishevelled iron-grey hair, was standing upon the 
threshold of the little shop to give the truant a 
fitting reception. 

" Eh, bien, desi du propre ! " she cried. " That 
sot of a Barraute who reels in here to boast of 
having seen his good-for-nothing son embrace my 
daughter ! Have you no shame, then ? " 

"There is no need for shame," answered Fran- 
£oise meekly; "we are affianced, Dominique and I." 

But this explanation only added fuel to the flames 
of Madame Peyrafitte's ire. " Affianced ! — you 
have the face to call yourself affianced, without 
my permission, to a young coxcomb who has not 
economised a franc, and who is leaving the place 
to-morrow morning into the bargain ! Quelle jolie 
plaisanterie ! Fortunately, we are about to be 
delivered from him; otherwise I would take care 
that you should never have permission to stir out 
of the Hotel des Bains after working hours." 

Fran§oise had little to say in deprecation of a 
scolding which was prolonged until bedtime. She 
had been prepared to be scolded, and experience 
had taught her that silent persistence is the best 


by Google 


reply to violent words. She did not mean to give 
up Dominique; nor, if the worst came to the 
worst, could her mother compel her to do so. She 
was not even forbidden (though it is true that she 
did not ask leave) to hurry down to the railway 
station in the early morning and see the last of her 
lover. Madame Peyrafitte's bark was ever worse 
than her bite. 

The little platform, thronged with youths who 
had been reported fit for service, and whose rela- 
tives and friends were present in large numbers, 
afforded no possibility of privacy. Dominique, 
looking superbly handsome and far more composed 
than the majority of his comrades — some of whom 
affected a noisy hilarity, while others did not dis- 
guise their dejection — was fain to rest satisfied 
with squeezing his betrothed's small brown hand. 
A hasty exchange of whispers and promises to 
write, a scarlet beret waved from the window of a 
third-class carriage as the train began to move, and 
all was over. 

Madame Peyrafitte, when her daughter returned, 
was no longer in a rage. She only said, " Listen, 
my child ; what you think that you wish for cannot 
be. These Barrautes, believe me, are worth no- 
thing. I remember . the grandfather, who was 
stabbed to death in a tavern brawl. You can 
see for yourself what the father has become ; and 



by Google 


the son will follow — it is fetal! You would do 
better to throw yourself into the river than to 
many a drunkard." 

" Dominique does not drink," pleaded Frangoise. 

"Eh! not yet, perhaps, but he will. When I 
tell you that it is in the blood ! " 

Frangoise pondered for a moment and then re- 
joined quietly : " I think I should marry him even 
if he did drink. What would you have, mother ? 
I have given him my word, and I cannot forsake 
him unless he forsakes me." 

Madame Peyrafitte broke out into a harsh laugh. 
" Let us hope, then, that he will forsake you. That 
would not astonish me, ma foi ! By all accounts, 
he does not detest pretty feces, that fine young 
man of yours, and he will see plenty of them in his 
garrison. Let him amuse himself to his heart's 
content, provided that he does not come back here 
to be the ruin of us all ! " 

" He will come back, and we shall be married," 
said Frangoise, not at all defiantly, but in the tone 
of one who states an incontrovertible fact. 
• •*••• 

It was on a cold December morning that Mr 
Grantley, who was spending a few days in Paris 
with his wife on their way to the Riviera, fairly 
lost his temper. 

"Upon my word!" he exclaimed; "this is a 


by Google 


little too bad, and I shall have to make a formal 
complaint about that confounded housemaid. Here's 
the sitting-room fire out again, and I couldn't get 
any water for my bath until I had rung three times. 
When the woman did condescend to come at last, 
she looked as sulky as a bear, and wouldn't even 
answer my humble remonstrances. Really, con- 
sidering the price that one is charged for atten- 
dance " 

" Oh, don't get her into trouble, John," pleaded 
good-natured Mrs Grantley; "I am sure she is 
ill, or unhappy, or something, poor creature! I 
saw her crying just now in the passage." 

" / don't want to get anybody into trouble," Mr 
Grantley declared ; " all I do want is to be allowed 
decent facilities for washing, and to avoid, if pos- 
sible, being frozen to death. But perhaps that is 
too much to expect in a hotel where one is only 
living at a cost of about £y a day." 

" I will speak to the woman," said Mrs Grantley. 
" Of course it is true that she has been neglecting 
her work ; but most likely there are excuses for 
her, if one only knew them." 

So Fran§oise was presently summoned into the 
bedroom of this stout, kind-hearted lady, to whom 
she offered the apologies which it had seemed 
useless to address to the irate Englishman. 

" Madame has good reason to complain ; I have 


by Google 


no head this morning, and I forget everything. It 
is my little boy who is dying down there in the 
Pyrenees, and madame, who perhaps has children 
of her own, can imagine " 

Although Mrs Grantley had no children of her 
own, her imagination was equal to the demand made 
upon it. " But you must go to him at once ! " 
she cried. a Why have you not asked leave? 
Would you like me to speak to the manager for 
you ? " 

The faded, submissive little woman, who looked 
so much older than she really was, shook her head 
with a faint smile. "Madame is very good; but 
it would not be worth while. They could not 
spare me just now, when the house is so full, and 
I cannot afford to lose my place." 

A little management induced her to relate her 
pathetic, commonplace story. Married at an early 
age to Dominique Barraute, whose affairs as a 
livery-stable keeper at Bagneres de Luchon had 
not prospered, she had found herself, almost im- 
mediately after the birth of her child, compelled to 
return to domestic service; and although she would 
have preferred to remain in her own province, the 
prospect of permanent employment held out by 
Paris had appealed to her too forcibly to be re- 
sisted. Her husband, too, had found a place as 
coachman to the colonel of his former regiment. 


by Google 


For the moment he was out of work ; but he 
meant, she believed, to seek a fresh situation. 
Thus for a matter of seven years they had been 
living apart, while their boy had been left in charge 
of the old grandmother at Luchon. Oh, yes ; 
they would perhaps come together again some day 
and have a home of their own once more ; there 
were moments when one hoped and other moments 
when one despaired. "This world, voyez-vous, 
madame, is a sad place, and one needs all the 
courage that one possesses to go on existing in it. 
And now, if I am to lose my little Dominique — ! " 

" Oh, but you are not going to lose him," the 
excellent Mrs Grantley boldly affirmed; "you must 
not allow yourself to think of anything so dreadful 
as that. Now I will tell you what to do. You 
give up your situation here — I will arrange all 
that for you — you start immediately for Luchon, 
and as soon as your little boy is well enough to 
be left, you come to us at Cannes. I happen to 
be in want of a housemaid, and I can see that 
you will suit me perfectly. So dry your eyes and 
pack up your clothes, like a sensible woman ! " 

If Mrs Grantley did not show herself to be a 
very sensible woman by thus engaging a servant 
for whose character she had not taken the trouble 
to ask, she was, at all events, a rich one, and 
amongst the many privileges of wealth must be 


by Google 


reckoned that of occasionally doing foolish things 
with impunity. She had, as it chanced, been 
guilty of no folly in securing the services and the 
eternal gratitude of Fran§oise Barraute, who was 
as faithful as she was honest and hard-working, 
and who scarcely ceased to call down blessings 
from heaven upon her benefactress throughout 
the long night-journey to Toulouse. It was a 
long journey, and Mrs Grantley, had she been 
forced to take it under similar conditions, would 
have pronounced it an intolerably uncomfortable 
one into the bargain. But Fran§oise would not 
have exchanged the hard seat of her crowded 
third-class compartment for the most luxurious 
couch in the world. Adorable third-class com- 
partment, which was conveying her as swiftly as it 
could towards her beloved mountains and her child I 
Notwithstanding the alarming reports which she 
had received from Madame Peyrafitte during the 
past week, she could not help feeling sanguine 
and exultant. Her luck hitherto had always been 
so bad ; and now that it had turned in this extra- 
ordinary and utterly unforeseen manner, surely she 
might hope for the best. By "the best" she 
meant little Dominique's recovery from the chill 
which was said to have brought him to death's 
door. There were other things for which she had 
long ceased to hope — knowing at the bottom of 


by Google 


ner heart that they were unattainable. Yet, when 
the winter dawn broke, clear and mild, upon the 
southern landscape, it seemed to her that even 
these might — who could say ? — be in store for her. 
One miracle (for she could call it nothing less) 
having already been worked on her behalf, why 
should not a second or a third follow ? 

But the line must be drawn somewhere, and to 
expect that miraculous intervention should hasten 
the movements of so deliberate a line as the 
Chemin de Fer du Midi would, no doubt, have 
been unreasonable. So Frangoise possessed her 
soul in patience while the slow train from Mon- 
trejeau puffed onwards and upwards, penetrating 
deeper and deeper into the heart of the eternal 
snow-capped hills. On reaching her destination 
about two o'clock in the afternoon, she confided 
her box to the care of a porter whom she did not 
know — for seven years of absence make strangers 
of us all in this world of unceasing decay and 
renovation — and trudged forth on foot towards 
the home of her childhood. The mountains, which 
decay so imperceptibly that their aspect remains 
the same from the first day to the last of an 
average mortal's brief pilgrimage, greeted her 
with a kindly, wintry smile, and seemed to bid 
her be of good courage. The mercies of God 
endure for ever, and surely a poor little woman 


by Google 


who had always tried hard to do her duty to 
God and man would not be abandoned in this 
hour of extreme need! 

u Comment I — <? est toil" cried Madame Peyrafitte, 
grown very old, feeble and white-headed. She 
stretched out her trembling, gnarled, hard-worked 
hands to her daughter. "Alas! my child, you 
come too late! We took him to the cemetery 
yesterday — our dear, brave little man, who had 
not the strength to get well, though the doctor 
said he was almost out of danger. You did not 
receive my telegram, then ? " 

Frangoise shook her head. She sat down in 
the dim shop, folding her hands with a gesture 
of patient resignation which was habitual to her. 
Somewhere hard by her brothers and sisters were 
talking and laughing together, already oblivious of 
transient funereal gloom. She could hear their 
fresh young voices, which did not jar upon her. 
Life is like that, she thought; one must be gay 
and forget so long as it remains possible to be 
the one or do the other. Happy, perhaps, are 
those who die ere sin, sorrow and suffering have 
become more than vague words to them. All she 
said was, " I have never had any good fortune." 

She explained briefly how — through what had 
appeared to be an exception to the rule — she had 
been released from Parisian servitude, and Madame 


by Google 


Peyrafitte recounted at somewhat greater length 
the details of her grandson's sickness and death. 
The two women spoke quietly, calmly, in low 
tones, shedding a few tears, but uttering no com- 
plaint. What is the use of complaining when the 
worst that can happen has happened, and heaven 
itself remains silent and powerless ? Neither tears 
nor prayers avail to restore our dead to us. 

"Your husband was at the funeral. I did not 
speak to him," Madame Peyrafitte said after a 

She had not spoken to him for years, nursing 
a dull, implacable resentment against the man 
who had fulfilled her prediction by following in 
his father's footsteps, and who, it was easy to fore- 
tell, would never earn more than was wanted for 
the gratification of his personal appetites. She 
grudged him the money which his wife saved out 
of her wages and transmitted to him every now 
and again ; the sight of him — always out of place 
through his own fault, always prosperous in spite 
of that, and as handsome as ever — turned her 
blood to gall. 

" He is in Luchon, then ? " asked Frangoise. 

" Mon Dieu, yes ! Did you not know ? For 
several weeks past he has been with his old 
friend Esterrade, who pays him, one must suppose, 
though there cannot be much work for him to do 


by Google 


during the winter. They tell me that he makes 
himself useful by breaking in young horses. He 
came to the cemetery with an air of being in- 
consolable. Bah! I would wager that he found 
means of consoling himself at the cabaret before 

Frangoise made no rejoinder. Her husband's 
confirmed intemperance could not be denied, nor 
was she ignorant of other grievances which might 
have been put forward on her behalf against him. 
But he had never ill-treated her in the sense 
commonly attached by peasants to that term, and 
— he was the father of her dead boy. If anything 
could have made her feel glad, it would probably 
have been the prospect of seeing him again. 

She did not see him — how absurd of her to have 
fancied that there could be any chance of her 
doing so ! — in the cemetery, whither she repaired 
towards evening, to kneel beside a freshly made 
grave. She laid an ugly little wreath of black 
and white beads upon it (for flowers were not to 
be had at that season) and remained a long time in 
an attitude of prayer on the damp, sodden ground, 
although she was not praying. The episodes of 
her uneventful, yet most pathetic, life presented 
themselves to her in slow review while she 
crouched motionless there, gazing at vacancy with 
heavy, unmoistened eyes — the few happy months 


by Google 


which had followed her marriage; then the be- 
ginning of misfortunes which were to end in 
bankruptcy; then the break-up, her departure 
and Dominique's ; his fredaines — which she would 
call by no harsher name — her long exile, brightened 
only by hurried, fleeting glimpses of her little one, 
for whom she had been glad to labour and toil in 
that distant, detested city, but who could scarcely 
be said to have known her. It was not of the 
longed-for future alone that she had been robbed, 
but of the past which might have been hers, and 
had been sacrificed to no purpose since it had led 
to this ! She did not murmur ; it had never been 
a part of her nature to do that ; she merely recog- 
nised the fact that she had hitherto laboured in 
vain, and wondered, after a dull, vacant fashion, 
what was to become of her now. Her husband 
could have told her. It was her manifest duty 
and destiny to go on labouring, and to forward 
him periodical doles out of her economies. 

However, he did not make that brutal announce- 
ment when she encountered him, on her homeward 
way, in the deserted Allee d'Etigny, and laid a 
timid hand upon his arm. On the contrary, he 
recognised her with a surprise in which some 
tenderness and emotion were perceptible. 

" Tiens I c'est la mere ! Ah ! my poor old 
Fran^oise, what a misfortune ! He was so pretty 


by Google 


and he looked so solid — our little one ! Well — 
there was no saving him, it seems." 

" It was the will of God," said Frangoise. 

Dominique shrugged his shoulders and laughed. 
" An amiable sort of God, it must be confessed, 
to massacre children who have never offended 
Him ! But, as you know, I have never believed 
very much in the existence of your God. It is 
not He, I suppose, who has paid your railway fere 
from Paris ? " 

" How do I know ? " answered Frangoise simply. 
" God may have put it into the heart of a benevo- 
lent English lady, who knew no more about me 
than I told her, to send me home and take me 
into her service. If I arrive only to find my boy 
dead and buried, that is not her fault." 

Dominique pointed out, in language somewhat 
too crude for reproduction, that the responsibility 
of having practised so ironical a deception must, 
by his wife's own showing, rest with Omniscience 
and Omnipotence. He was not quite sober; 
although he walked straight and talked distinctly. 
She perceived the danger of irritating him; yet 
— when would she find another opportunity so 
favourable for reminding him of bygone promises 
and endeavouring to save him from himself? There 
is a kind of eloquence which depends upon nothing 
so little as upon studied phrases or intentional 


by Google 


effects, and Frangoise employed it, not altogether 
with success. The bare facts which she enu- 
merated spoke, indeed, for themselves, while her 
diffidently worded appeal might have found its 
way to a harder heart than her husband's. But 
really he could not, for a dozen reasons, make the 
reply which he was entreated to make. 

" Listen, ma mie" he began, not unkindly, on 
the conclusion of a harangue which he had not 
interrupted ; u you ask for the impossible. Where 
would you have me find the money to buy a house 
and settle down with you a second time at Luchon? 
And if that could be done, do you imagine that 
your life would be a happy one with me ? I am 
what I am, and I am worth what I am worth — 
which is very little — but at least I am no hypocrite. 
Let us face the truth. We were young lovers 
once; now we are something quite different. A 
pity, if you like, but so it is. You would be con- 
tented to live upon a crust, whereas I must have a 
bottle of good wine to wash it down ; you have 
faith, I have none ; you would delight in denying 
yourself, while there are certain small pleasures 
for which your priests would be puzzled to offer 
me a substitute. Is it not evident that we should 
be like an ill-matched pair of mules, pulling right 
and left while the cart stuck in the mud? No, 
no ! return to your Englishwoman, who promises 


by Google 


you such handsome wages, and when you have 
more money than you can spend, remember your 
scapegrace of a husband, who will never be em- 
barrassed in that way." 

Frangoise sighed. "That is the end,* then," 
said she ; " there is no hope." 

"Eb y mafoi! One hopes — one must always 
hope. But not for things which can never 

He understood what she meant, and he was 
not displeased, only a little amused. He had had 
to intimate to other women that love is but a 
fugitive illusion, and he had always sincerely re- 
gretted the necessity for such cruel candour. 
That poor Frangoise, with her prematurely old 
face and her bent figure, should require to be 
thus enlightened was, perhaps, somewhat laugh- 
able ; but he was willing to excuse her for that 
wilful blindness to plain facts which characterises 
the whole of her sex. Moreover, he had no 
wish to quarrel with an amiably disposed creature 
who would soon have English guineas to give 

As for Frangoise, nobody had ever accused her 
of being quarrelsome. She presently wished her 
husband goodnight, and they parted without any 
embrace, without making any future appointment 
— also without the reproaches which one of them 


by Google 


might legitimately have addressed to the other. 
Reproaches, like complaints, are, as a general rule, 
of little avail, and those who demand the im- 
possible must submit to disappointment. 

Madame Peyrafitte, on being briefly informed of 
her daughter's determination to leave at once for 
Cannes, did not protest. She said : " It is, after 
all, the best thing that you can do, since living in 
idleness is out of the question, and work is not to 
be had here. Some day, perhaps, when I am dead 
or crippled, you will come back and take my place. 
Meanwhile, you do well to place a good many 
leagues between you and that worthless spend- 
thrift, Dominique Barraute, who has not the 
shadow of a claim upon your savings." 

She went on to mention a trifling claim of her 
own — the cost of a six-foot concession of ground 
in the cemetery, and the undertaker's charges — 
which Frangoise promised to defray. She was not 
more hard-hearted than another; but she was very 
poor, she could not afford to lose money, and to 
every other species of loss she was inured by long 
use and wont. 

So, when the benevolent Mrs Grantley's new 
housemaid quitted Luchon the next day, she had 
the poor comfort of knowing that her departure 
left no one inconsolable. Even the mountains, 
cold, white and clear against a livid grey sky, had 


by Google 


the air of abandoning her to her fate. They had 
looked down upon the joys and sorrows, the lives 
and deaths of so many thousands like her ! Every 
dog has his day, and Frangoise realised that she had 
had hers, short though it had been. Work re- 
mained to her — at once a necessity and a blessing 
— and at least she would now be able to do her 
work without the old ceaseless, hopeless longing 
to escape from it. 

She did her work, in the sequel, so well and gave 
such satisfaction to her employers that she is at 
the present time a dignified, middle-aged house- 
keeper, presiding over the Cannes establishment, 
which is only occupied for a matter of three or 
four months every winter. During her long holi- 
days ample leisure is granted to her for revisiting 
the Pyrenees ; but she has not yet availed herself 
of these opportunities. Her mother is dead ; her 
brothers and sisters are dispersed and provided 
for; her husband was killed long ago by one of 
Esterrade's colts, which fell with him and rolled 
over him. Why should she spend money which is 
better bestowed upon the young generation on an 
objectless journey? If the mal du pays still attacks 
her from time to time — and she admits that it 
does — she has no longer any wish to live at 

"But I have a fancy for being buried there," 


by Google 


she says, " and since madame has been so good as 
to purchase a piece of ground for me beside my 
boy, I am content. I like to think that my pinch 
of dust will be added to the heap on which the 
mountains stand." 


by Google 


DENEATH the name of Anatole Percier upon 
his visiting cards appeared, in smaller char- 
acters and within brackets, the proud inscription, 
"Citoyen du Monde." It was a proud inscrip- 
tion, inasmuch as he took great pride in thus 
openly defining himself; although his friends 
and acquaintances may have thought, as most 
of us think, that the time has hardly yet come 
for patriotic persons to boast of belonging to no 
country in particular. If, however, the excellent 
M. Percier's ideas had outrun by a little those 
of his contemporaries, it was not that he doubted 
for one moment the superiority of the French 
to all other nations, and if he had arrived at the 
conclusion that war was an anachronism, what 
more fitting spot could have been chosen for the 
proclaiming of such a discovery than Paris, la 
Ville Lumiere. He proclaimed it, therefore (some- 
times a trifle inconsequently, it must be owned), 
both in the monthly reviews, to which he was 
a valued contributor, and at the frequent con- 
ferences where he spoke with so much graceful 


by Google 


fluency, and which it had become very much 
the fashion to attend. Certain eccentricities 
were willingly permitted to a man of such learn- 
ing and such sympathetic oratorical gifts. 

For the rest, a more amiable old gentleman 
did not breathe, nor one better satisfied with 
himself, his only daughter and his widowed lot. 
Tastes of primitive simplicity, an income augmented 
far beyond spending-point by literary earnings, a 
modest flat in the Boulevard de Clichy, which he 
had no ambition to exchange for one more ex- 
pensively situated — these things sufficed to main- 
tain a perpetual smile upon the rosy, smooth- 
shaven face beneath his silvery hair. Marthe, 
when she married, would have quite an imposing 
dot to supplement her incontestable beauty, and 
although he was in no hurry to establish her, he 
recognised that he must sooner or later extend a 
benevolent reception to one of the aspirants by 
whom she was beginning to be beset. 

Only, of course, his principles compelled him 
to shake his head at the name of Eugene 
Caragnon, a Lieutenant of Hussars, whom he 
liked well enough personally, but whose calling 
rendered the tentative suggestions of the Caragnon 
family wholly inadmissible. What ! — a man who 
might at any moment be called upon to take part 
in the internationally legalised crime of exterminat- 


by Google 


ing his fellow-creatures? "Impossible, my good 
friends! Say no more about it to me, I entreat 
you." So they shrugged their shoulders and said 
no more about it, sad though they felt it to be 
that something like half a million of francs should 
be destined to enrich some wretched civilian, whose 
blood would never be shed upon the sacred soil 
of the lost provinces. Marthe herself, a little 
maiden as clever and discreet as she was pretty, 
had taken good care not to utter a word upon the 
subject, notwithstanding the surreptitious love- 
passages which had occurred between her and 
the handsome young officer. Her father, for all 
his indulgence and kindness of heart, was — so 
she mentioned to an interested person — " un peu 
vif" and he was capable of shutting his door 
in the face of one who, for the time being, 
continued to be a frequent and welcome visitor. 
In Marthe's opinion there was nothing for it but 
patience and a vigilant watch upon events. Events 
almost always admit of manipulation by the vigilant 
and adroit ; while it was certain that M. Percier 
would never go the length of forcing his daughter 
to espouse a man for whom she felt a positive 
dislike. Now there was not, nor would there 
ever be, any man on earth save one who could 
inspire her with other sentiments than those of 
profound antipathy. 


by Google 


The principles of good M. Percier inclined him 
towards bestowing his daughter and her marriage 
portion upon a foreigner rather than upon a 
Frenchman. A Russian, perhaps, or an Italian; 
possibly a German — possibly even, if it came to 
that, a gross, greedy, dull-witted Englishman; for 
citizens of the world must be above all prejudices. 
His acquaintance among aliens was large and in- 
creasing. Letters from enlightened men of all 
nations reached him daily and bore testimony to 
the appreciation with which his lectures and 
articles were received beyond the frontiers. 
Prominent among these was one Professor 
Rothkopf, who wrote (in deplorable French, to 
be sure, yet with a fine flow of language) from 
the well-known University town of Neu Schreck- 
lich to congratulate his accomplished confrere upon 
the courageous and convincing dissemination of 
views which he personally shared to the full. 

Marthe from the outset conceived a special 
aversion for this valued Teutonic correspondent of 
her father's. To begin with, he was a Prussian 
— a circumstance which might surely have been 
sufficient to end with him into the bargain 1 His 
style, moreover, struck her as being far too 
unctuous and effusive to be sincere. She sus- 
pected him of ulterior designs; and what these 
were became as clear as daylight to her when 


by Google 


his son, Hans Rothkopf, appeared in Paris one 
fine day, bearing a letter of introduction. Neu 
Schrecklich might be a remote town, situated in 
a semi-civilised land ; but information nowadays is 
obtainable everywhere, and nothing was more 
likely than that the Herr Professor had found 
out how well M. Percier's only daughter was 
provided for. 

As a matter of fact, Professor Rothkopf had 
made that discovery, and had even based some 
indistinct visions upon it ; but he had not, to do 
him justice, despatched the long-legged, phleg- 
matic Hans to Paris with a view towards further 
spoliation of an already despoiled nation. Hans 
was destined for a commercial career, and it was 
indispensable that he should familiarise himsell 
with the French language. That he should like- 
wise be permitted familiarity with such an dme 
delite as M. Percier was an incidental privilege 
for which the professor felt duly grateful to cir- 
cumstances. For Rothkopf, too, was an advocate 
of peace, a philosophic observer of the follies and 
the sad mutual hatreds of mankind, a Weltburger, 
in so far as the assumption of such a title could 
be safely combined with loyalty to the Emperor 
and a due sense of United Germany's right to 
march in the van of progress. His lengthy, in- 
volved, and sometimes slightly unintelligible 


by Google 


epistles were a pure delight, during several 
months, to his Parisian counterpart, who recog- 
nised that the good man's heart and brain were 
in the right place, despite the difficulty which 
he evidently encountered in expressing his fine 
thoughts with precision. That a Prussian, of 
all people in the world, should have been gained 
over to a cause which all wise men must needs 
end by supporting sooner or later was indeed 
something like a triumph ! 

Now, when one has taken the success of a 
great and world-wide cause in hand, it is im- 
possible to bring a microscope to bear upon all 
the trivial details involved therein. Hans Roth- 
kopf was, perhaps, a rather dull and heavy 
youth; his hands and feet were large, his 
speech was slow, his accent was atrocious : that 
he was adapted to take the affections of a lively 
French girl by storm nobody could venture to 
affirm. But happy wedded life has little enough 
to do with stormy affections, and M. Percier 
very soon made up his mind to a match towards 
which he saw no reason why either of the young 
persons concerned should feel averse. It would 
be such a touching and encouraging episode, 
this union of two falsely called natural enemies ! 
— such a distinct advance in the direction of 
the coming millennium, when swords were to 


by Google 


be beaten into ploughshares, bloated armaments 
reduced, and the reign of universal brotherhood 
inaugurated ! 

Thus it came to pass that Mademoiselle Marthe 
was plagued with ponderous attentions to which 
her tart responses usually missed their mark, 
while Eugene Caragnon's fingers were perpetually 
and involuntarily stealing towards the hilt of his 
cavalry sabre. How joyfully would Eugene have 
picked a quarrel with, and given ultimate satis- 
faction to, the stupid, intrusive Teuton whom he 
never failed to find in possession of the field when 
he visited the Boulevard de Clichy ! But he was 
absolutely forbidden to adopt any such heroic 
methods of dealing with the situation. 

"Mais, malhetireuXy vous seriez capable de tout 
gdter!" Marthe exclaimed, on one of the rare 
occasions when her disconsolate adorer had con- 
trived to secure a moment of private conversation 
with her. u Do you not understand, then, that it 
is a question of disgusting my father with these 
people, not of making him feel that he owes them 
reparation ? Nothing will be decided, nothing will 
be formally suggested, until we meet Professor 
Rothkopf in Switzerland, where a rendezvous has 
been appointed for next month. Then perhaps 
it will be time to declare war — though the declara- 
tion must not be made by you." 


by Google 


" By whom, then ? " 

a That we shall see ; but I do not believe that 
there will be any trouble, unless you make it. 
This absurd Hans has been instructed to pay court 
to my dot ; but he evidently detests me " 

a It would be impossible for anybody to do that, 

"Not so impossible as you imagine. But even 
if he worshipped me, do you think that anything 
would ever induce me to marry a German ? Leave 
it all to me, and you shall hear good news of us 
before the summer is over." 

Seelisberg, upon the heights above the Lake of 
Lucerne, was the scene which M. Percier had 
selected for his annual holiday ; instigated to that 
choice by his friend at Neu Schrecklich, who 
favoured the locality, and whose hand he was 
eager to clasp. Thither, accordingly, as soon as 
the weather became too hot for life in cities, he 
betook. himself, accompanied by his daughter, and 
there, on his arrival, he was welcomed by Herr 
Hans Rothkopf, who was likewise enjoying a brief 
vacation and had dutifully hastened to spend it 
with his parents. 

u You did well to engage your apartments in 
advance," the young man said ; u the hotel is large, 
but you come at the most crowded season. There 
is no more room left in it for a cat." 


by Google 


His actual words were, "// riy a blus de blace 
bour metter un chat" and Mademoiselle Marthe did 
not fail to compliment him upon the increasing 
purity of his accent. 

Hans turned duskily red, for he disliked ridicule, 
though he was not, as a rule, very quick at detect- 
ing it. But M. Percier, who was much too polite 
to laugh at anybody, at once rebuked his daughter's 
bad manners. 

" Allons, allonsj mon enfant ! When you speak 
German as well as M. Rothkopf speaks French you 
will have a right to be critical. As for accent, there 
are as many different accents as there are provinces 
in France. The object of language is only that 
one should be able to make oneself understood 
in it." 

For all that, German voices grated upon his ears 
and set his nerves on edge. These predominated, 
drowning all others, in the crowded, over-heated 
salle-a-manger to which he was presently con- 
ducted, and he was fain, during dinner, to confess 
to himself (though, of course, not to his daughter, 
who sat beside him) that it takes a good deal 
of philosophy and magnanimity to recognise as 
brethren people who cannot converse without 
raising such a discordant hubbub about it. The 
solace of Professor Rothkopf s vicinity was denied 
to him. That burly personage, placed, with his 


by Google 


rotund spouse, at the other end of the long table, 
made amicable gesticulations from a distance; 
but it was not until a very protracted meal had 
reached its conclusion, and the replete denizens 
of the hotel had begun to disperse, that the two 
representatives of advanced thought were able to 
fling themselves into one another's arms. This 
they did, when the time came, with immense 
cordiality, and perhaps Professor Rothkopf, being 
in high good humour, did not find the process as 
disagreeable as M. Percier, who had to subdue 
some natural irritation, did. One may (unless one 
has the good fortune to be an Englishman) be 
called upon at any moment to embrace a member 
of one's own sex, and things must be taken as they 
come; but really it is a little trying to have to 
plunge one's nose into a bushy beard, redolent of 
tobacco and schnapps ! 

However, the discomfort was but momentary, 
whereas the joy of exchanging ideas with an 
admiring sympathiser was, it might be hoped, 
likely to prove a permanent possession. The Frau 
Professorin lost no time in leading away Marthe, 
while her husband, after lighting a prodigious 
pipe, invited M. Percier to accompany him to a 
sequestered bench in the grounds that he knew 
of, where, he remarked, " nous pourrons jaser & 
noire aise" 


by Google 


" Chazer" he said, in a voice which might have 
been his son's, and he proceeded to demonstrate 
that, however eccentric might be his phonetic 
rendering of the verb, he was only too well able 
to give it practical effect. Not a syllable could 
poor M. Percier insert edgeways during the next 
ten minutes; and this was the more exasperating 
because two thirds of Professor Rothkopf s some- 
what arrogant harangue cried aloud for deprecatory 

"Mais men! Mais pardon!" exclaimed the 
outraged apostle of human solidarity at length; 
" you exaggerate ! You completely misinterpret 
my views! I maintain, it is true, that national 
barriers should be abolished, and that the stupid, 
brutal argument of supremacy by means of mere 
physical or mechanical force has had its day. But 
never have I said or thought that any one race — 
least of all the Germanic ! — was destined to swallow 
up and assimilate all the rest. You must — excuse 
me — have studied my humble utterances in a 
singularly superficial spirit to arrive at conclusions 
so grotesque. " 

The professor's fat sides were shaken by a slow, 
rumbling laugh. "My good sir," he returned, 
with an air of patronage which was the more 
provoking because (in addition to its being so 
misplaced) it was evidently not intended to give 


by Google 


offence, "the question is merely one of figures. 
We Germans are increasing, while you Frenchmen 
are stationary, if not diminishing. Already we 
out-number you by some fourteen millions; a 
quarter of a century hence the difference will be 
even more striking, and I think we may assume 
that the era of universal peace will scarcely have 
been inaugurated within that space of time. I 
look upon it, therefore, as inevitable that, whether 
Germany, England or Russia is destined to pre- 
ponderate in the future parliament of the world, 
France can only be represented by a minority. A 
respectable and intellectual minority, if you like ; 
still a minority." 

This absurd theory of the virtue of mere 
numbers deserved to be combated, and was com- 
bated with no little vivacity. Both disputants 
waxed rather warmer than beseemed the serenity 
of the philosophic mind ; yet the discussion might 
have ended without an actual rupture of amicable 
relations if they had not at length found them- 
selves endeavouring to analyse the causes which 
had led to the catastrophe of 1870. That perilous 
point having been reached, serenity and philosophy 
took swift wing, leaving the field to sheer thunder 
and lightning. A moment soon arrived when 
Professor Rothkopf and M. Percier, glaring 
ferociously and smarting under the lash of un- 


by Google 


pardonable speeches, were ready to revert to the 
first principles of barbarism. 

" Butor / " muttered the Frenchman. 

" Pig-dog ! " growled the German in his bristling 

Then they shouted simultaneously, "Say that 
again, sir ! " And then, alas ! M. Percier's open 
palm fell — whack! — upon his neighbour's cheek, 
while his own nose was forcibly and painfully 
tweaked between a Teutonic finger and thumb. 

The next instant they were, of course, rather 
ashamed of themselves; but what use, after all, 
is there in a repentance which cannot honourably 
be avowed ? Blows had been exchanged ; apologies 
were no longer to be thought of; and, although 
neither of these men of peace had ever fought a 
duel in his life, each clearly perceived that he 
would have to do so now. 

" Sir ! " called out the professor, drawing him- 
self up to his full height and trembling with 
various emotions, "my friend, Captain Freiherr 
von Eckstein will call upon you in an hour's time, 
when you will no doubt be so good as to refer 
him to some friend of yours." 

"Diantre/" murmured M. Percier, when he 
was left to ruminate in solitude over the above 
bellicose announcement, "here is a pretty piece 
of imbecility! And where, I wonder, am I to 


by Google 


look for a friend in this abominable German-Swiss 

As if in answer to his question, there appeared 
at this moment through the fast-falling darkness 
the form of a certain young Frenchman who was 
somewhat stealthily making his way towards 
Seelisberg from the shores of the lake, where he 
had disembarked. 

" My dear Eugene ! " exclaimed M. Percier, 
with quite unexpected joyfulness and cordiality, 
" you fall from heaven ! " 

M. Caragnon, considerably taken aback, stam- 
mered out something about leave from regi- 
mental duty and the hotels of Switzerland being 
open to everybody. He added that he had no 
desire to intrude upon acquaintances who might 
find his presence objectionable. 

" Intrude ! " echoed M. Percier reproachfully, 
a for what, then, do you take me ? Is it conceiv- 
able that the presence of a friend and a compatriot 
among outlandish barbarians could, in any case, be 
regarded as an intrusion ? In the actual case it is, 
as I say, a direct gift from heaven. I will explain 
the actual case to you in two words. " 

He proceeded to explain it in a good many 
words, during the utterance of which his hearer 
surreptitiously rubbed a pair of gleeful hands. 
M. Percier and Professor Rothkopf might or 


by Google 


might not be bound to meet in deadly combat — 
that would be a matter for subsequent consulta- 
tion — but, whether or no, the goose of Herr Hans 
was evidently cooked. 

"It is a most deplorable incident," Caragnon 
solemnly remarked, on the conclusion of the 
recital; "and what adds to its gravity is that it 
must, I fear, put an end to the matrimonial project 
which I understand that you had in view with 
regard to Mademoiselle Percier and the son of 
this ruffianly Prussian." 

"No such monstrous project exists! I forbid 
you to allude to it ! " cried M. Percier indignantly. 
Then, remembering himself, he resumed with more 
composure: "I may have had notions; I do not 
deny that I have. But the time is not ripe yet 
for giving effect to notions of that elevated but 
premature character. What is for the moment 
essential is that I should teach a lesson in manners 
to a self-satisfied pedant who has insulted me and 
my country grossly. The misfortune is that I 
doubt whether I could hit a house at twenty paces 
with a pistol-bullet, and I have completely for- 
gotten the little that I ever knew about the art of 

u Place yourself unreservedly in my hands, dear 
sir," returned Caragnon reassuringly; "I have 
some experience in these matters, and you may 


by Google 


rely upon it that your honour and the honour of 
France will be safe with me." 

That might be so, M. Percier somewhat ruefully 
mused ; but it did not necessarily follow that his 
skin was safe, or that the hide of the arrogant 
Prussian was in any danger of being pierced. 
However, it was at least something to have secured 
an experienced second, and he confined himself to 
addressing a recommendation of discretion and 
strict secrecy to the latter. 

The upshot of the above colloquy was that M. 
Caragnon found himself closeted, an hour later, 
with Baron von Eckstein, a tall, fair-haired 
Brandenburger, who chanced to be sojourn- 
ing in the hotel, and who had felt constrained 
to respond to the appeal of his learned fellow- 

"Of course," Caragnon began, "the whole 
affair is ridiculous. We cannot allow two old 
men who would be more likely to hit their 
seconds than one another to meet." 

Herr von Eckstein, with a shrug of his shoulders, 
agreed that it was ridiculous. "It is also," he 
remarked, "quite irregular. There should, for 
instance, be four of us here, instead of two, to 
discuss preliminaries; but the truth is that I do 
not know where to lay my hand, amongst these 
tourists, upon a possible colleague." 



by Google 


" And I, then ! — who arrive this moment from 

u Exactly so. Under the circumstances, I beg 
to intimate, on behalf of my principal, that we are 
prepared to accept an apology." 

"But, unfortunately, we are not prepared to 
offer one. Indeed, I scarcely see how we could 
be satisfied with excuses — much less make them. 
Insults, I must remind you, have been addressed 
not only to us but to France." 

The German shrugged his shoulders again. 
"Oh, if you take up that ground " 

"Really, I have no choice; I cannot regard the 
quarrel as a purely private matter. But may I 
suggest, M. le Baron, that since irregularity is 
inevitable, we should carry it a step farther and 
leave our absurd principals out of account ? " 

The other stared. 

" Are you proposing that we should fight in 
their place, you and I?" 

"Why not? I represent France, whose nose 
has been pulled; yours is the slapped face of 
Germany. I should have preferred, I confess, to 
call out Herr Hans, who is a typical blockhead of 
the nation to which the professor and you belong ; 
but, in his absence, it gives me much pleasure to 
treat you as a substitute for the Rothkopfs, pere 


by Google 


At this Freiherr yon Eckstein coloured up and 
cleared his throat. What followed was absolutely 
incorrect and (which was much worse) perhaps a 
trifle ludicrous into the bargain ; still he could not 
consent to be put out of countenance by the levity 
of an impertinent Gaul. In a word, M. de Car- 
agnon and he set forth for Lucerne shortly after 
daybreak the next morning, and, having purchased 
a couple of Jleurets de combat, proceeded to fight a 
duel in the neighbourhood of that town, without 
seconds and with no other witness than a Swiss 
surgeon, whom they prevailed upon, much against 
his will, to accompany them to the field of battle. 

The antagonists were very equally matched, and 
the baron, whose blood was up, would not hear of 
retiring after he had been touched on the shoulder ; 
but when, a minute later, M. de Caragnon was 
run clean through the forearm, the doctor took it 
upon himself to stop the fray. The French gentle- 
man, he declared, was no longer in a condition to 
fight ; honour had been satisfied, and any attempt 
to renew hostilities would, in his opinion, be equiv- 
alent to culpable homicide. In fact, his duty would 
compel him to denounce it as such, and he inti- 
mated that, by uplifting his voice, he could have 
both his patients taken into prompt custody. So 
they begged him to be so good as to dress their 
wounds, instead of waking the echoes with an in- 


by Google 


opportune jodel; after which they shook hands, 
exchanged compliments and breakfasted together 
amicably enough at the Schweitzerhof. 

Meanwhile, the fiery foes who should by that 
time have been shedding one another's blood 
upon the peaceful heights of Seelisberg were 
anything but happy. Of course, they had not 
slept very well: how could men of a certain 
age and of conciliatory principles be expected 
to sleep well under such circumstances? Of 
course, too, solitary reflection had made it only 
too evident to them both that they had made 
shocking fools of themselves, and of course they 
wished with all their hearts that they had never 
met. Met, however, they had, and very shortly 
they must meet again, with swords or pistols 
in their unskilled hands. Therefore, as may be 
imagined, their first care, on descending from 
their respective bedrooms, was to inquire after 
their respective representatives. Those gentlemen, 
they ascertained, had departed by the early boat 
for Lucerne — doubtless in search of lethal weapons. 
Prompt and thoughtful of them, in one sense, 
perhaps, yet a little thoughtless in another; for 
they might have remembered the inevitable em- 
barrassment of the midday dejeuner, which must 
bring together two deadly enemies, whose enmity 
it was imperative to conceal from the ladies. 


by Google 


With downcast eyes and scant appetite was that 
repast partaken of by the severed philosophers ; 
but if the ladies divined that something was amiss, 
they did not, fortunately, suspect the gruesome 
truth. One of them, indeed, having foreseen a 
quarrel upon which she had every reason to con- 
gratulate herself, was secretly overjoyed, and had 
some ado tQ disguise her satisfaction. However, 
she had no satisfaction to disguise when, in the 
course of the afternoon, she descried Hans Rothkopf 
marching towards the shady bench whither she 
had betaken herself with a book, in obedience 
to her father's request that he might be left to 
write undisturbed. The youth's determined mien 
led her to fear that a formal offer of marriage was 
about to be addressed to her, and she was not 
reassured by his petition for a brief audience. But 
his first words, after a curt and ungracious assent 
had been accorded to him, were, at all events, 
reassuring, if somewhat unexpected. 

" Mademoiselle," he began, " I do not love you." 

" Monsieur," she replied, as soon as she had re- 
covered a little from her surprise, " I beg you to 
believe that I am not enamoured of you." 

" Cest entendu ! Nevertheless, you must be aware 
that our parents desire us to marry, and although 
do not presume to assert that you would obey 
Percier no matter what his commands might 


by Google 


will own that I shrink from defying my father, upon 
whom I am entirely dependent, and who appears to 
me to be in a very bad temper to-day.'' 

"Which is to say?" 

" Which is to say, mademoiselle, that the case is 
one for the exercise of a little harmless diplomacy. 
We are agreed — is it not so ? — that nothing will 
ever induce us to become man and wife. But if I 
were to draw back or if you were to refuse, we 
should expose ourselves to trouble and reproaches 
which may, I think, be very easily avoided. If we 
were to affect willing submission and leave the 
responsibility of a rupture to our elders ? I only 
take the liberty of suggesting this course because 
I perceive that my father and yours will certainly 
fall out before long. Unless I am very much 
mistaken, they came to high words over political 
questions last night ; and why should we open a 
way of retreat for them when, by simply allowing 
things to take their course, we may count upon 
eventual release and apologies ? " 

" M. Rothkopf," answered Marthe, " I feel that I, 

at all events, owe you an apology. You are both 

more intelligent and more disinterested than I gave 

vou credit for being, and if I did not abhor your 

hole nation " 

4 Mademoiselle, you cannot — between ourselves 
hor it more than I do yours ! " 


by Google 


" A la bonne heure / Then let us make friends, 
since we must always be enemies ! " 

She held out her hand, in token of the good faith 
of this oddly worded compact, and Hans was in the act 
of raising it gratefully and respectfully to his lips when 
M. Percier suddenly appeared from behind a belt of 
adjacent pines. The spectacle was of a nature to 
infuriate an already overburdened philosopher, and 
poor M. Percier exploded like a bombshell. 

" I forbid you to kiss my daughter's hand, sir ! 
How dare you permit yourself such a freedom 
without my consent ? How dare you ? " 

" I am at your orders, monsieur," said the meek 
Hans, drawing himself up and bringing his heels 
together with a click. 

"Then my orders are that you instantly with- 
draw, and that you do not venture to approach 
Mademoiselle Percier again until I give you leave. 
Which will be never, sir — never ! " 

Hans waited for no second dismissal, and M. 
Percier, with tears in his voice, turned upon his too 
obedient daughter. 

"Unhappy girl! Do you wish to break my 
heart, then?" 

"Have you ever asked yourself whether there 
was not some danger of your breaking mine ? " 

" By refusing to let you ally yourself with one 
of the murderers of your country ! " 


by Google 


"No; by planning to make me do that very 
thing. It is with one of the defenders of my 
country that I should ally myself, if I were free to 
choose ; but since you will have nothing to say to 
soldiers " 

M. Percier embraced his daughter tenderly. 
"My dear child, I breathe again! I have — let me 
confess it at once — been guilty of a stupid error ; 
I have attempted to anticipate a state of affairs 
which I obviously cannot live to witness, however 
desirable it may be from an abstract point of view. 
These Germans are impossible ! — and will remain 
so until they have been put back into the place 
that befits them. In the event of my death — 
which may be nearer than you think for — you 
must marry a Frenchman; I implore and adjure 
you to do so ! Even though his profession should 
be the entirely honourable one of arms, to which 
our friend Eugene Caragnon, for example, is 

The shadow of his friend Eugene Caragnon fell 
between him and the sinking sun, and checked 
further eloquence. The young man, who wore 
his right arm in a sling, and who looked a little 
pale, did not speak; but Freiherr von Eckstein, 
who stood beside him, had news which could not 
be accounted unwelcome to impart. 

"We come," this gallant officer announced^ 


by Google 


" from informing Professor Rothkopf of what it is 
now our duty to inform you, sir — namely, that the 
affair which you were pleased to place in our hands 
has been adjusted. The professor has been so 
good as to express himself satisfied with the manner 
in which we have dealt with it, and we shall be 
glad to receive a similar assurance from your lips." 

The requested assurance was not immediately 
forthcoming. M. Percier, who, as soon as he re- 
cognised von Eckstein, had hurriedly drawn the 
latter aside, felt bound to protest against the 
inadmissible pretension of a second to assume 
the part of a principal ;• but it was gravely pointed 
out to him that, having appointed M. Caragnon 
to act on his behalf, he must accept his repre- 
sentative's decision. Perhaps he was not alto- 
gether sorry to get the worst of a prolonged 
argument and to be convinced that, since Pro- 
fessor Rothkopf had acquiesced in a vicarious 
combat, he had no choice but to do likewise. 
Meanwhile, M. Caragnon, left in the background 
with Mademoiselle Marthe, was offering explan- 
ations to which it may be conjectured that no 
serious objection was taken. 

On the following day M. Percier, accompanied 
by his daughter and their wounded compatriot, 
quitted Seelisberg. The place, it was felt, was 
not quite large enough to hold two disputants 


by Google 


who cherished identical theories, yet who might, 
at any moment, fly once more at one another's 
throats, and a conference which had conspicuously 
failed in its chief objects was best broken off. 

" The education of the world," M. Percier de- 
clared oratorically, as he stood on the sunny deck 
of the steamer, " is still lamentably in arrear. If I 
consent — not unwillingly — to bestow my daughter 
upon a Frenchman and a fighting man, it is because 
I am forced to acknowledge that education must 
come in the future, as it always has in the past, 
from France, and that it cannot, unfortunately, yet 
dispense with the aid of fire and sword. I, and 
those who look forward as I do, must rest satisfied 
with proclaiming the great truth that all men are 

" And," murmured the submissive Marthe under 
her breath, " with allowing inferior beings to fight 
their battles for them." 

But it may be hoped that this irreverent and 
irrelevant comment upon a noble pronouncement 
did not reach the philosopher's ears. 


by Google 


• was the style and designation by which 
he used to be known in the days of his youth and 
the days of his glory ; though I believe his claim 
to the last two words of that high-sounding 
appellation would not have borne too close a 
scrutiny- I presume, however, that he was an 
authentic baron, and he had the clearest right, 
both inherited and personal, to the first of his 
names. He was, indeed, commonly called le beau 
Prifet at that now distant epoch, and enjoyed a 
certain celebrity by reason of his magnificent 
stature, his handsome, olive-complexioned face, 
and those large dark-brown eyes of his which 
would doubtless have achieved innumerable con- 
quests, but for the man's queer shyness and 
modesty. I am not aware that he possessed any 
other title to fame or distinction — save, to be sure, 
that of being the beautiful Madame de Montigny's 

No doubt it was because he was the husband 


by Google 


of a lady who had adorned (rather too con- 
spicuously adorned, some people said) the Imperial 
Court that he had been made Prefet of a certain 
southern department of France, and that he was 
privileged to spend money so lavishly in enter- 
taining the aristocracy, resident and exotic, of 
Arleville. I call the place Arleville because it 
is necessary for present purposes to confer some 
pseudonym upon it. A quarter of a century or 
more ago, it was the gayest and brightest of little 
towns during the winter months, attracting hosts 
of foreigners by its charming climate and the 
beauty of its natural surroundings. The climate, 
I am assured, has not changed for the worse, nor 
have the everlasting hills shifted their position; 
visitors also are stated to be more numerous than 
ever. But it would be difficult to persuade me 
that any place or any people can be quite as 
bright and gay now as of yore. That, of course, 
only means that I have been young and now am 
old. I regret to add that in other respects my 
experience has not altogether coincided with that 
of the Psalmist, and if it be contended that the 
officials of the Second Empire were an evil and 
corrupt crew who richly deserved the ruin which 
overtook most of them, all I can say is that some 
very decent fellows were, to my knowledge, 
numbered in their ranks. Decent fellows are, in 


by Google 


truth, to be found almost everywhere ; one's position 
in life is so seldom the result of one's personal choice! 
Lebeau, at all events, would never, I feel sure, 
have been a Prefet of his own free will, although 
he looked the part well enough when he donned 
his showy uniform, and although he discharged his 
social duties with an amiability which went far 
towards atoning for the obvious fact that they 
bored him horribly. Madame, for her part, enter- 
tained indefetigably, but did not trouble herself to 
be amiable to everybody. She allowed it to be 
known that she considered herself in exile when 
away from Paris (she really was in a sort of 
temporary exile, I was told, owing to certain in- 
discretions of which everybody, except her husband, 
seemed to be aware), and an occasional bow, re- 
sembling a nod, was as much as provincials or 
obscure foreigners, like myself, could expect to 
obtain from her. Sundry distinguished Russians, 
a few Parisians, wintering in the south, and one 
or two titled young officers, quartered at Arleville, 
were more highly favoured. She was a singularly 
beautiful and graceful woman, with her chestnut 
hair, her half-closed blue eyes, and the semi-regal 
airs which she affected ; and as I was then much 
too young a man to be affronted by the circum- 
stance that she never took the slightest notice of 
me, I admired her prodigiously. 


by Google 


My admiration was evidently shared by a person 
who was fiilly entitled to admire her, as well as by 
several persons who were not. At the Prefecture 
balls I often noticed our host, propping himself up 
against the wall, talking to nobody, and contem- 
plating his wife's movements with a serene pride 
and beatitude which to some of the bystanders 
must, no doubt, have appeared supremely ridiculous. 
He had, I was assured by those who were acquainted 
with him, absolutely no conversation; he only 
danced under compulsion, and then about as badly 
as it was possible to dance. 

Now, it so happened that I myself, being but a 
poor performer, though fond of dancing, was some- 
what diffident about soliciting partners, and thus I 
often found myself standing out, while my friends 
were more agreeably employed. One evening, not 
a little to my surprise, the Prefet sidled up and 
accosted me in a friendly, confidential tone. 

"This does not amuse you too well, monsieur?" 
said he. " We should be able to sympathise with 
one another ; for God knows how for it is from 
amusing me! " 

For the moment I was quite confused by the 
unexpected honour of being so addressed ; I was 
scarcely more than a boy, and in those days, I had 
a high idea of the dignity and importance of 
official personages. But it was impossible to feel 


by Google 


embarrassed for long in the company of this good- 
humoured and unassuming creature. If he had 
nothing to say to fine ladies, he could be almost 
garrulous with a young Englishman, who did not 
intimidate him, and many of whose tastes, as it 
presently transpired, were identical with his own. 
He was an enthusiastic sportsman, he told me, and 
notwithstanding the modesty with which he spoke 
of his achievements, I soon perceived that he was 
entitled to give that description of himself. He 
listened with much interest to what I had to tell 
him about sport in England. I daresay that at 
that callow stage of my existence I may have been 
of opinion that nobody outside my own country 
really knew much about guns and horses ; if so, 
the insular arrogance was destined to be taken out 
of me ere long by the Baron Lebeau de Montigny, 
who was a far surer and cleaner shot than I was 
then, or have since become. Of his horsemanship 
I cannot speak quite so highly ; but he had at any 
rate that indispensable requisite of courage with- 
out which it is useless for any man, whether 
French or English, to get on a horse's back. The 
freemasonry which exists amongst all who have a 
common love of open-air pursuits made speedy 
friends of us, and I well remember how, on the 
conclusion of a cotillon, in which neither of us had 
taken any active part, the beautiful Madame de 


by Google 


Montigny deigned for the first time to address 

" But you are astonishing, monsieur/' said she, 
with a feint, ironical smile; "you have actually 
succeeded in keeping Fernand awake until two 
o'clock in the morning ! " 

" Mon amie" the Prefet hastened to explain, 
" Mr Lambert has shot red deer in Scotland, and 
I know not how many thousand grouse upon the 
moors of Yorkshire." 

44 Oh, alors? she returned, with a laugh and a 
shrug of her white shoulders, " tout est dit ! " 

He did not call me Mr Lambert, but 44 M. 
Lambert," pronouncing my patronymic after the 
French fashion — a thing which he could never do 
without a brief, involuntary snigger. There was 
at that time a Gallic joke connected with the name 
of Lambert and derived from some cafe-chantant 
ballad or other — Oil est Lambert ? — avez vous vu 
Lambert ? I have no more idea of what it meant 
than I have of similar slang phrases which obtain 
periodical currency on this side of the Channel; 
but it often came in appropriately, and M. de 
Montigny, who was as easy to amuse in some 
ways as he was difficult in others, invariably 
chuckled when he found himself called upon to 
mention my name. He used to apologise for 
chuckling, and to accuse himself of being atro- 


by Google 


ciously mal Sieve ; but my feelings were not hurt. 
We Britons have our defects (and if we remain 
ignorant of any of them the fault assuredly does 
not lie with our foreign critics); but I think that 
we stand chaff good-humouredly. 

Well, from that day forth, if any young officer of 
the Arleville garrison chanced to inquire facetiously, 
"Ob est Lambert?" the answer, "A la Prefecture" 
came readily enough. In spite of disparity of age 
and social standing, I was soon the intimate associate 
— perhaps the only intimate associate — of the 
master of that luxurious establishment, who was 
himself more like a grown-up schoolboy than a 
solemn, responsible functionary. He had some 
very fair horses in his stable, and we used to 
ride cross-country races, which I generally won, 
against one another over the heathery moorlands 
which rise behind the town. Also we had one 
or two days of capital quail -shooting together, 
when he turned the tables on me. More distant 
expeditions into the mountains, in pursuit of nobler 
game, were planned, but had to be repeatedly 
postponed, owing to pressure of public business. 
For the times were growing ticklish in more ways 
than one ; the stability of the Imperial throne was 
not what it had been, and reports from the pro- 
vinces were continually being demanded a propos 
of everything and nothing. 


by Google 


" I do not know what these gentlemen wish me 
to say," the Prefet would declare. "I tell them 
that an excellent feeling prevails, and that I receive 
assurances from the mayors which leave nothing to 
be desired ; but if they dream of increasing their 
popularity by establishing a more liberal and re- 
presentative form of government, I think they 
make a mistake. They would do better, in my 
opinion, to pick a quarrel with the King of Prussia 
and offer the nation the results of a successful 

campaign. Enfin! what do I know about 

politics ? " 

There is every reason to believe that he knew 
very little indeed. Possibly, if he had known 
more, he would not have been where he was; 
for a despotism is apt to be ill served by those 
who have contracted the vexatious habit of think- 
ing for themselves. I sometimes wondered whether 
he was aware or not that he owed his actual posi- 
tion solely to his wife, who was reputed to possess 
great influence in high quarters; but I am sure 
now that he was aware of nothing at all — 
not, at any rate, of what was so patent to the 
rest of his little world — and that if those who 
compassionated him were justified in so doing, 
they were by no means justified in despising 

One notes with stupefaction the conquests 


by Google 


achieved by such men as the Comte de Saint- 
Peray, a by no means admirable officer of 
hussars, who was no longer in his first youth, 
and whose methods of laying siege to hearts 
were not, to my mind, by any means attractive. 
He had brought with him, however, from Paris 
the reputation of being both irresistible and cyni- 
cally fickle. It may have been the latter alleged 
attribute which first recommended him to the 
favour of Madame la Prefete; for she was her- 
self accustomed to success in the field where he 
had won his laurels, and perhaps she was a little 
tired of easy victories. Be that as it may, she 
had, at the time when I became a constant 
visitor under her roof, reduced this hero to what 
bore all the appearance of a state of abject 
slavery. When I spoke of his conquests just 
now, I did not mean to imply that he had con- 
quered Madame de Montigny, who, on the con- 
trary, seemed to have conquered him; but as he 
spent the whole of his spare time in her company, 
Arleville, naturally, drew its own conclusions, and 
these were of a nature to expose Monsieur le 
Prifet to covert sneers of which he remained 
blissfully unconscious. The fact, I suppose, was 
that, in his eyes, his adored wife, like the king, 
could do no wrong, and his faith in her must, 
by all accounts, have been unshakable to have 


by Google 


survived the severe tests which had already been 
laid upon it. 

"That Saint-Peray is a lucky fellow," he re- 
marked musingly one day while we were driving 
back towards Arleville from one of our shooting 
expeditions — " a very lucky fellow ! " 

I replied that I had been given to understand as 

"He has deserved his luck, bien entendu" my 
companion resumed; "but that does not alter 
the fact that he has had it. To have seen all 
the fighting that there has been since he first 
put on a uniform; to have distingushed himself 
in Mexico and in Africa " 

" And to have escaped without a scratch ! " I 

44 Oh, as for that, I imagine that he is as willing 
as another to take his share of wounds. For the 
rest, he has given his proofs, and will give them 
again, no doubt. That is why I envy him and 
call him lucky. // riy a que fa, voyez-vous. I 
grant you that there must be civilians as well 
as soldiers in every country; but the highest 
honours belong to the soldiers — as is only just." 

He went on to lament that he had not adopted 
a military career in preference to one for which 
he had few qualifications ; and he looked pleased 
when I remarked that he had, at all events, as 


by Google 


much pluck as any warrior could need. He 
pointed out, however, that the not very un- 
common virtue of intrepidity must have some 
opportunity of displaying itself before it can ex- 
pect to be recognised. 

" You and I, my dear Lambert," he was pleased 
to remark, "are not cowards; but it is very 
possible that we may go down to our graves 
without ever having done anything to convince 
the world that we are brave men. And when 
one is absolutely devoid of every other merit " 

He shrugged his shoulders and left his sentence 
unfinished. He had plenty of other merits, and, 
as a matter of fact, opportunities have since been 
afforded him for demonstrating his possession of 
that one; but the world has omitted to clap its 
hands. Perhaps, however, he was not at the 
moment thinking so much about the world at 
large as about a lady who often spoke in laudatory 
language of M. de Saint-Peray's prowess. 

Nevertheless, he was not in the least jealous. 
I remember that on that very evening when we 
reached the Prefecture, we found the gallant 
officer in question seated on a stool at Madame 
de Montigny's feet, and that both she and he 
looked slightly taken aback, for we had not been 
expected to return before the following morning. 
But the loyal Fernand exhibited no sign of dis- 


by Google 


pleasure or disquietude. He said laughingly — 
and with perfect sincerity, I don't doubt — that 
he was delighted to find himself so admirably 
replaced; he begged Saint -Peray to stay to 
dinner, and looked as pleased as possible when 
his invitation was accepted. It must really have 
been rather poor sport to hoodwink so blind a 
mortal, and 1 fancy that Madame de Montigny 
was almost provoked with him, convenient though 
his blindness no doubt was. Saint-Peray, for his 
part, had the air of being a trifle ashamed. He 
had, I believe, fought many duels with aggrieved 
husbands, and very likely he would have felt more 
comfortable if there had been any prospect of his 
exchanging shots with his friend the Prefet : such 
prospects enable a man to retain his self-respect — 
or some equivalent sentiment. 

Meanwhile, I am not prepared to affirm that any 
legitimate excuse for a hostile encounter existed. 
Madame de Montigny alternately encouraged and 
repelled her admirer — a time-honoured process 
which seldom fails to bring about the desired 
results— and perhaps she was in no hurry to put 
an end to a state of things so flattering to her 
vanity. Arleville chattered; but I imagine that 
the chatter of Arleville left her supremely indiffer- 
ent. What, as I gathered, she was quite unable 
to regard with indifference was the spending of 


by Google 


a whole summer in those southern latitudes, and 
she loudly bewailed the official responsibilities 
which compelled her to do so. These may have 
been— and her husband, who urged her to betake 
herself to Trouville for the hot months, as usual, 
declared that they were — wholly imaginary; but 
she averred impatiently that it would be expected 
of her to remain at her post. 

I daresay Madame de Montigny and her husband 
had their respective parts to play in securing that 
overwhelming majority by which, soon afterwards, 
the French nation proclaimed its approval of a 
revised Imperial Constitution. The Prefet, I am 
sure, discharged himself of what he conceived to 
be his duty, while Madame, after her brilliant 
successes at the Tuileries and Compiegne, could 
do no less than back him up. M. de Saint-Peray, 
who belonged to an old Legitimist family, but 
wore the Emperor's uniform, was doubtless willing 
to assist the lady to the best of his ability. But 
politics had as little interest for me in those days 
as for my excellent Lebeau, and really I know 
nothing of what took place under his auspices 
after I left Arleville in the spring. It was time 
to go home, and all the winter visitants had either 
departed or were packing up ; but I, unlike them, 
contemplated a speedy return. 

"Why should you not run out to us for a few 


by Google 


weeks in July — you, who have nothing to do but 
amuse yourself?" my fellow-sportsman had asked 
me. " I will take a fortnight's leave of absence, 
and if there are any bears in the mountains, we will 
pay our respects to them. Failing bears, we will 
find other game. In any case, we shall have the 
joy of sleeping under the stars and escaping the 
postman. Est-ce entendu ? " 

I assented to a project which sounded rather en- 
ticing to me — the more willingly because Madame 
de Montigny was graciously pleased to associate 
herself with her husband's hospitable entreaties. 
Fernand, she said, would never have the energy 
to organise an expedition which would be the 
best thing in the world for his health unless he 
were provided with a companion, and the young 
men of Arleville were too lazy to join him. 

M. de Saint-Peray, who happened to be present, 
remarked coolly that somebody must remain behind, 
if only to execute Madame's commissions. Both 
his speech and his manner struck me as impertinent; 
but apparently they did not so strike Madame de 
Montigny's husband, who laughed heartily and 
replied, "I make you welcome to that privilege, 
mon garfonl It will keep you busy, I promise 

Very likely it did; for Madame de Montigny 
delighted in making him run errands, and doubt- 


by Google 


less she had ample opportunity of tyrannising over 
him in that way during the early part of the dull 
season. But, as I said before, I don't know what 
took place in the little southern city after I had 
exchanged its social attractions for those of London. 
Only, as the so-called dull season progressed, and 
as the date fixed upon for our sporting excursion 
drew near, it became evident that, so far as public 
affairs were concerned, French Prefets must be 
having anything but a dull time of it. 

When I passed through Paris, on my way to 
keep an appointment of which I had received more 
than one epistolary reminder, I was assured by 
those who ought to have known, that the war- 
scare was a thing of the past. The Prussians, I 
was told, did not want war and were not ready 
for it; Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern had 
withdrawn his objectionable candidature for the 
throne of Spain, and the only danger was that the 
French, who did want war and were ready, might 
get out of hand. Diplomacy, however, relied 
confidently upon the Executive to allay popular 

" Go in peace," said one of my well-informed 
informants laughingly. " Unless you shoot your 
Prefet or he shoots you, there will be no inter- 
national bloodshed on French soil this year." 

Despite this reassuring prophecy, I lingered a 


by Google 


few days in Paris, thinking that, after all, there 
was perhaps going to be a row, and that, if so, 
it would be a pity to miss it. I was as eager to 
participate in rows a quarter of a century ago as 
I am to keep clear of them now. Thus it came 
to pass that I witnessed some interesting historical 
scenes ; thus, too, I was enabled to reach Arleville 
on the very day of the declaration of war. There 
could be no earthly risk in seeking a spot so 
remote from the frontier, nor was it likely that 
the outbreak of hostilities would prevent an over- 
worked official from taking a brief holiday. So, 
at all events, I was led to believe. 

But my friend the Prefet, though delighted to 
see me and as warm in his welcome as I could 
have desired him to be, did not seem to think that 
there was any immediate prospect of our hunting 
the reluctant bear together. I found him greatly 
excited and agitated, as well as very busy, and he 
declared that he had more work to do than he 
could get through in twelve solid working hours 
out of the twenty-four. 

" But that will pass," he observed with a sigh. 
"La parole est aux canons, and soon we shall be 
reduced — we unhappy civilians — to the rank of 
mere helpless spectators. It is neither glorious 
nor dignified ; but what would you have ? At 
least the march of our victorious armies will be 


by Google 


a spectacle better worth watching than the Con- 
stitutional experiments of M. Emile Ollivier." 

He had no misgivings with regard to that forth- 
coming victorious march; only it was a chagrin 
to him to be precluded from taking part in it. 
Madame de Montigny, less enthusiastic, and per- 
haps less sanguine (for I subsequently heard that 
she, like other hangers-on of the luckless Emperor, 
was under no illusion as to the magnitude of the 
task which had been undertaken), spoke shudder- 
ingly of the horrors of war and lamented that it 
should have been found impossible to arrive at a 
pacific solution. 

" You talk at your ease ! " she remarked to her 
husband, shrugging her shoulders rather disdain- 
fully ; " you risk neither your own skin nor that 
of anybody who is dear to you." 

It was not a very kind speech, seeing that the 
poor man asked nothing better than to make a 
target of himself for the bullets of the enemy ; 
but he did not seem to resent it. It was but 
natural, he said, that women should feel as his 
wife felt ; he added that it was likewise touching 
and admirable. 

I could not myself discover anything particularly 
touching or admirable in the lady's attitude ; but 
it may have been, and I daresay it was, quite 
natural that she should deplore the departure of 


by Google 


her admirer in chief, who had been appointed to 
serve on the staff of some general whose name 
does not come back to me. A day or two after 
my installation at the Prefecture, where I was 
entreated to remain for at least a week, upon the 
chance of carrying out our original programme, 
I encountered M. de Saint-Peray, hurrying towards 
the garden which I had just quitted, and had the 
honour of bidding him goodbye. For he was 
upon the point of leaving for the seat of war, he 
told me, and had come to make his adieux to 
Madame de Montigny. I very considerately offered 
to conduct him to the tent on the lawn under 
which I knew that she was seated; but he de- 
clined my good offices with less affability than 
might have been expected from so well-bred a 
man, stating that he knew his way about the 
premises well enough to be independent of a 
guide. There was no colour in his cheeks, I 
noticed, and the hand which he extended to meet 
mine was cold, notwithstanding the oppressive 
heat of the weather. I take it that he must 
have been genuinely enamoured of a woman who, 
as far as my observation served, had very little 
genuine about her composition, physical or mental. 
That, however, was no business of mine, and the 
Prefet, fortunately, had business of another kind 
which was likely to keep him at his writing-table 


by Google 


until dinner-time. What the eye does not see 
the heart does not grieve over ; no greater bless- 
ing than short sight can be desired for the hus- 
bands of such ladies as Madame de Montigny ; and 
since Saint-Peray was off to the wars it might be 
hoped that he and his goings-on would never again 
afford excitement to the gossips of Arleville. With 
these and similar philosophic reflections I beguiled 
an hour or more, while 1 sauntered about the ill- 
paved, malodorous streets beneath a white um- 
brella and a blazing sun. I thought I had better 
let them have an hour. It seemed a sufficiently 
liberal allowance ; and anybody who knows what 
the paving-stones of Arleville are like on a sultry 
summer afternoon will admit, I am sure, that I could 
not have allowed them much more. It will be urged, 
perhaps, that nothing compelled me to return to the 
garden on the conclusion of my walk, and that the 
vast, cool salons of the Prefecture, with their 
closed persiennes, remained open to me. Well, 
that is true, of course, and at my present advanced 
age I know better, I hope, than to intrude, under 
any circumstances, upon anybody ; but I was very 
young in the year 1870, and my own company 
was far from having the charm for me which I 
am glad to say that it has since acquired. 

Towards the garden, therefore, I bent my in- 
discreet steps, and a lucky thing it was that one 


d by Google 


of Madame de Montigny's recent extravagances 
had been the turfing of what, under the rule of 
her predecessors had, I believe, been a bare and 
arid expanse. For this deadened the sound of my 
approach, and preserved both me and others from 
being put to prompt and ludicrous confusion. It 
was in rosy confusion, I own, that I beat a hasty 
retreat from the neighbourhood of Madame de 
Montigny's pretty, striped tent. I had seen 
what 1 had no business to see, and I devoutly 
thanked Providence for enabling me to withdraw 

Nowadays, if by chance I were to catch sight 
of an unauthorised arm encircling a lady's waist, 
and of that lady's head reposing upon an un- 
authorised shoulder, 1 should suppress an elderly 
chuckle, I suppose, turn on my heel and think 
no more about it. I am forty-eight years old, 
and it is no longer in the power of my fellow- 
creatures to surprise or shock me. It was other- 
wise at that remote epoch when Prince Bismarck 
so successfully shocked and surprised the Emperor 
Napoleon III. It is true that Madame de 
Montigny's flirtation with Saint-Peray was no 
secret to me; still there is always a shade of 
difference between what one knows to be the 
case and what one has beheld with one's own 
eyes. Moreover, I hated then, and don't like 


by Google 


even now, to receive indisputable evidence of 
the fact that women are no better than we are. 
They really ought to be better ; and if they are 
not, they might at least endeavour to keep up a 
pleasing illusion which for so many centuries has 
helped to make the world go round. Of course 
there is not the slightest use of my saying so; 
but I will take this opportunity, nevertheless, of 
proclaiming my humble conviction that every 
woman who causes a young man to think con- 
temptuously of her sex, incurs graver and wider 
responsibilities than she suspects. 

However, I apologise for digressing into a sort 
of sermon, when all I meant to say was that I 
ingenuously blushed for two persons who were 
probably incapable of blushing for themselves. I 
may add that my heart bled for my poor, stupid, 
confiding Prefet, who had spoken to me that very 
morning with gratitude and admiration of his 
wife's refusal to leave Arleville in those anxious 
times. She had declared, he told me, that the 
times were such as to call for some sacrifice on 
the part of every man and woman in France, and 
she had already assembled a number of ladies who 
had undertaken, at her instance, to begin pre- 
paring lint and other necessaries for the wounded. 
One now divined her motive for remaining at 
Arleville, and one foresaw that she would soon 


by Google 


be found willing to tear up lint in some 
deserted spot. 

No spot could have looked more deserted than 
the principal salon of the Prefecture, whither I 
betook myself after my ill-timed descent into the 
garden. I was contrasting its actual silence and 
darkened solitude with the brilliant aspect which 
it had worn during the bygone winter months, 
and I was asking myself whether, after all, I had 
not better show the place a clean pair of heels, 
when one of the doors opened and the Prefet 
entered. He carried a sheaf of telegrams in his 
hand and had the appearance of being very tired, 
very hot and a good deal worried. But a smile 
broke out upon his face when he caught sight of 
his dejected guest. 

"My poor friend," he exclaimed, "I owe you 
a thousand apologies ! It is unpardonable to leave 
you all alone from morning to night, and I am 
sure you must be repenting of your amiability in 
having undertaken a detestable journey only for 
this ! But courage I we will shoot a bear between 
us yet. It is only during these first few days, 
when everything seems to have got into a tangle, 
that it is out of the question for me to place sub- 
ordinates in charge. Presently we shall be left 
behind, as it were, in a desert, and I shall have 
nothing to do. For the moment," he added, 


by Google 


glancing ruefully at his telegrams, " I have a little 
too much." 

Just by way of saying something, I asked him 
whether military preparations were in a tangle; 
whereupon he threw up his hands and shook his 

" One would imagine so," he replied, " from 
the messages which I receive and the impossible 
questions which are put to me ! But perhaps it 
is always like that at the opening of a campaign 
— what do I know ? Saint-Peray would be able 
to tell you, if he were not already on his way to 
join the dance — happy fellow! I thought he 
would have looked in at my office to bid me good- 
bye ; but no doubt he has been too busy." 

I thought of mentioning that M. de Saint-Peray 
had called at the Prefecture in the course of the 
afternoon, but decided to refrain. Most likely 
he was still in the garden, and, if so, the less said 
about him the better. 

"And Gabrielle?" resumed my unsuspecting 
friend, after a pause — "what has become of her? " 

" Madame de Montigny was sitting out on the 
lawn an hour or two ago," I replied evasively. 

"Then she will not have moved ; for she is not 
in the house, and the coachman, I hear, has had 
no orders. Suppose we join her; I have some 
telegrams here which it will interest her to read." 



by Google 


Nobody but a downright imbecile would have 
attempted, under such circumstances, to dissuade 
a husband from seeking out his wife. A sensible 
man would, of course, have assented cheerfully 
and, on nearing the tent, would have been seized 
with such a vociferous fit of coughing as would 
have sufficed to place guilty persons in conven- 
tional attitudes. But so far, I regret to say, was 
I from behaving like a rational being that 1 com- 
pletely lost my head, and begged the Prefet on 
no account to intrude upon Madame de Montigny's 
solitude. She would not like it, I declared; 
probably she had fallen asleep ; it would startle 
her to be disturbed. Such, in short, was my 
skilful tact that I succeeded at last in alarming 
one who, heaven knows, was not very readily 

u What do you mean, Lambert ? " he ended by 
inquiring with knitted brows. " You are conceal- 
ing something — what is it?" 

I protested that I had nothing to conceal ; and 
I daresay my countenance gave the lie to my pro- 
testations. At all events I was presently compelled 
to accompany him downstairs into the garden, where 
1 had not even the presence of mind to bark or 
sneeze. I could only trust that Saint-P£ray had 
quitted the tent towards which my friend hastily 
strode. But Fate — always a blind, stupid force 


by Google 


— had not yet thought proper to dismiss that 
amorous warrior ; nor, I imagine, was Madame de 
Montigny agile enough in her movements to save 
the situation. 

Being a few yards in the rear, 1 did not see 
what the Prefet saw ; but he staggered back, with 
a choking ejaculation and a look of horror and 
amazement on his face which told their own tale. 
A tragi-comic scene ensued. There was a good 
deal more of tragedy than comedy in it, but the 
latter element was not wanting. It very seldom 
is in cases of that description. Madame de 
Montigny, who emerged from the tent, followed 
by her admirer, was a little frightened, but not, 
so far as I could judge, in the least ashamed ; 
Saint-Peray, smiling and imperturbable, was equal 
to an occasion which was probably not without 
parallel in his experience; but the injured and 
astounded husband was, I fear, rather ridiculous. 
He raved incoherently ; he shook his ten fingers 
in his rival's face; he appealed insanely to his 
wife to say that his eyes had deceived him. 

" Gabrielle ! Gabrielle ! dis-moi done que ce riest 
pas vrai ! " 

Gabrielle did not, apparently, think it worth 
while to make so preposterous an assertion, and 
the unhappy man threw up his arms despairingly. 

A moment later he was writhing and struggling 


by Google 


on the ground in a fit. The servants were 
summoned ; a doctor was sent for ; he was carried 
into the house, where he remained very ill all 
through the night, but recovered consciousness 
and was pronounced out of danger on the morrow. 
And on the morrow, seeing no alternative course 
open to me, I fled. Saint-Peray, I ascertained, 
had also departed — as indeed he must have been 
compelled to do — and I never heard what became 
of him, or of the Baron Lebeau de Montigny, or 
of Madame la Baronne, for whose unworthy sake 
one of them seemed destined to kill the other. 
On one's journey through life one is perpetually 
coming across fragments of unfinished romances, 
which arouse a passing curiosity and are forgotten. 

One of those vexatious little episodes of travel 
which never fail to excite the wrath of an irritable, 
elderly man befell me the other day. I was jour- 
neying southwards to join my wife and daughters, 
who were spending the winter at Cannes, and as I 
really cannot see where the luxury of the so-called 
train de luxe comes in, I had decided to sleep at a 
certain well-known town of central France. On 
reaching the station for which I was bound, I 
accordingly left the express and presented my 
bulletin at the baggage department — only to dis- 
cover, after the customary exasperating delay, that 


by Google 


everything I possessed in the way of clothes and 
toilet requisites was being whirled at a high rate 
of speed towards Marseilles. That sort of thing 
is enough to make anybody swear. At all events, 
it was enough to make me swear, and I relieved 
my feelings by doing so. Furthermore, I demanded 
an immediate interview with the Chef de Gare. I 
did not, I remarked in my best French, want a lot 
of imbeciles to dance round me, assuring me that 
all would arrange itself; I had been temporarily 
deprived of the use of my property through the 
grossest carelessness and negligence, and I must 
insist upon stating my case to a responsible official. 
Presently, therefore, the responsible functionary 
appeared upon the scene — an urbane, white-haired, 
white-moustached personage who, with his gold- 
laced cap in his hand, offered me apologies so 
ample and so polite that I myself was reduced 
to adopting an apologetic tone. I said it was 
rather infuriating to lose all one's things after 
having taken every precaution enjoined upon 
travellers by the P. L. M. Company to insure 
their safety, and he quite agreed that it was. 
But he would at once telegraph to the next stop- 
ping-place, and he hoped that within a few hours 
the missing articles would be returned to the 
station for which they had been labelled. Would 
I have the extreme goodness to favour him with 


by Google 


my name and address, so that my belongings, on 
their arrival, might be sent to the hotel which I 
proposed to patronise? 

I told him my name, and I noticed that a 
quickly suppressed spasm of mirth contracted his 
lean, wrinkled countenance. He was evidently old 
enough to remember the days when one could 
not announce one's self as Lambert without mak- 
ing everybody in France titter. But he remembered 
more than that — more than I, for my part, remem- 
bered, even after he had gripped my limp, un- 
responsive hand with a cry of 

II Dieu de Dieu! it is the old Lambert of Arle- 
ville himself! But you do not recognise me — in 
effect, why should you ? " 

I stared at the man. " If it were not impossible," 
I began hesitatingly, " I should almost believe 
that I was in the presence of M. Lebeau de 

"De Montigny — no," answered the Chef de 
Gare, smiling ; " the Baron de Montigny did not 
survive the Empire. But Lebeau — very much at 
your service, my old friend." 

He added that he must postpone explanations 
until he had telegraphed for my luggage and had 
seen a mail train, which was nearly due, despatched 
for Paris; but he begged me to dine with him 
presently at a neighbouring restaurant, and, of 


by Google 


course, I could not have refused, even if I had 
wished to do so. 

u You think me very much to be pitied, my 
friend," he remarked placidly, an hour or two 
later, when we were seated opposite to one 
another, with a couple of empty bottles of ex- 
cellent Chambertin between us; "but that is 
where you make a mistake. It is quite as amusing 
to be a station-master as to be a Prefet ; I have no 
cares ; I am sure of my pension, and from time tc 
time, when I get a holiday, I still shoulder my gun. 
I ask for nothing more." 

He had already told me how, a quarter of a 
century before, he had shouldered a rifle for the 
defence of his country, and how, on the conclu- 
sion of peace, he had solicited and obtained 
employment on the railway. "I was literally 
without a sou" was his laughing explanation of 
this step; "I had spent the whole of my small 
patrimony at a post from which the Republic 
naturally hastened to remove me, and ma foi ! if I 
had not had the good luck to take part in several 
successful skirmishes, God knows what would have 
become of me ! As it was, I was considered to 
have a certain claim, and — me void ! " * 

Up to that moment he had made no allusion 
whatsoever to Madame de Montigny ; but now he 
tranquilly observed: "You are wondering what 


by Google 


has become of the lady who was my wife twenty- 
five years ago. Well, the divorce law has come to 
our aid, and she is now the Comtesse de Saint- 
P£ray — a grande dame, very influential, very rich 
(for her husband has inherited a large fortune) 
and much more Royalist than Monseigneur le Due 
d'Orleans. I bear no grudge against Saint-Peray, 
who, it must be owned, has behaved like a gallant 
man. At Versailles, where we met during the 
Commune, he gave me the satisfaction to which 
I was entitled, and did me the honour to plant a 
bullet in my shoulder — what more could he do, 
except to bestow his name and title upon one 
who " 

" Who had proved herself eminently worthy of 
being so distinguished," I suggested, since he 
seemed to be in some doubt as to the fitting 
completion of his sentence. 

" Precisely. And, between ourselves, my friend, 
it does not seem to me certain that I have the 
worst of the bargain. Life, you see, is like that 
— in youth one demands a host of things, most of 
which are not to be had; one must grow old in 
order to discover that nothing is worth making 
such a fuss about, and that the chief of all earthly 
blessings is peace. It is not I, believe me, who 
am resigned to a peace which has cost us two of 
our provinces ; yet I sometimes hope that I shall 


by Google 



be in my grave before the war of revenge breaks 
out. What would you have ? The past is past, 
and the present may easily be more anxious and 
troublesome than it is. Let us talk of something 

We talked about a variety of other subjects — 
about sport, about my own commonplace history, 
which he insisted upon my relating to him in full 
detail, about former Arleville acquaintances of 
ours, who were dead, married, or ruined — until 
the hour came when his duties forced him to 
quit me. 

"It is droll, all the same," he said, as he held 
my hand, " that we should have met again in this 
way." And he began to sing softly in a cracked 
voice : — 

" C'est moi qui ai vu Lambert 
A la gare da chemin de fer ! " 

The white - aproned, bullet - headed waiter 
grinned. He did not, of course, recognise a 
chanson which can only be recollected by the 
elderly, and I daresay he considered that two 
bottles of Chambertin, followed by a petit verre 
apiece, were sufficient to account for one out of a 
pair of old gentlemen bursting into senile song. 
The truth is that M. Lebeau, who cannot be so 
very much over fifty years of age, looked quite 


by Google 



My wife, to whom I subsequently narrated his 
vicissitudes of fortune, opines that his heart is 
broken ; personally I incline to the belief that he 
has learnt, as he professes to have done, to appre- 
ciate the blessings of peace. May they be his a 
little longer 1 For indeed I do not think that any 
protracted extension of them will be required in 
his case. 


by Google 


" A FTER all, the world is not an unpleasant 
place. A man has his worries and bothers, 
and if he expects to live from Sunday morning to 
Saturday night without any rubs, he must be a 
fool. But a little patience pulls one through, and 
when all's said and done, there are more good days 
than bad ones." 

It was Mr Preston, senior partner in the well- 
known firm of Preston and Preston, solicitors of 
Westhampton, who expressed this opinion, which 
came a little oddly from the lips of an old lawyer, 
and certainly did not agree in tone with those 
for which he was in the habit of charging six-and- 
eightpence. He did not^ however, give utterance 
to it in his office, but in the garden of his pretty 
country-house at Lingwould, five good miles away 
from parchments and japanned boxes ; and the 
hour was half-past eight on a still June evening, 
and the nightingales were singing and the roses 
were in bloom, and a decanter of Chateau-Margaux 
stood on the little table at his elbow, and, best of 
all, he was alone, so that he could talk any 

x8 7 


by Google 


nonsense that he pleased without danger of 
contradiction. He had, it is true, some special 
reasons for optimism at that moment; but even 
in default of these he might have been excused 
for thinking well of a world which had brought 
him nothing but prosperity. He had succeeded 
early in life to an excellent business, which by 
industry and integrity he had converted into a yet 
more excellent one ; he had married a worthy 
woman, who had not only never given him the 
faintest cause to complain of her, but had pro- 
vided him with an eldest son and partner of 
irreproachable merit ; and now in his old age 
he was quite at liberty, if it so pleased him, to 
twirl his thumbs, drink his claret, and bud his 
roses, procul negotiis. 

But it is a part of human nature to demand 
cares, and to create them if they will not come 
unbidden. Mr Preston, with plenty of money, 
with a sufficiency of occupation, with an attached 
and well-conducted family, and with robust health, 
had contrived to treat himself to the additional 
luxury of a standing anxiety in the person of 
his niece, Miss Violet Ripley, and her fortune. 
Neither the one nor the other should have dis- 
turbed him much, seeing that Miss Ripley, who 
was his ward as well as his niece, had always 
shown herself quite a model young lady, and 


by Google 


that a good round sum of money, becoming 
rounder year by year while waiting to be spent, 
cannot be counted among the evil things of life. 
But every medal has its reverse, and if a man be 
but determined to vex himself, he will generally 
carry out his purpose in this way or in that. 

Violet Ripley, as a pretty little orphan, amply 
provided for, had not originally presented herself 
to her guardian in the light of an encumbrance or 
a trouble. Mayfield was a good-sized house, and 
a little girl to grow up among his own three sons, 
to soften their manners and not suffer them to 
become wild, was what no judicious parent could 
object to. It was when the little girl developed 
into a big girl, and her fortune, growing quietly 
with her growth, had reached the imposing total 
of 40,000/., that Mr Preston began to see breakers 
ahead. No one had ever accused this upright 
gentleman and conscientious legal adviser of greed, 
and indeed Mrs Preston was wont to repeat to 
all who would listen to her that her husband was 
the best of men ; yet, since even the best of men 
is not perfect, it may be admitted that he had the 
one small failing of being a little too fond of 
money. For his niece's personalty, which he had 
carefully nursed during so many years, he had 
acquired a quasi-paternal affection, and it went to 
his heart to think that, sooner or later, those 


by Google 


self-propagating guineas would have to be handed 
over to his niece's husband. 

The first time that he conceived the notion of 
keeping them in the family he experienced a certain 
sensation of shame; but upon further reflection 
he asked himself, "Why not?" He was not 
going to coerce anybody ; he would not even take 
upon him to offer advice ; he would merely make a 
suggestion. And so, when Violet was nineteen and 
his eldest son Thomas had reached the age of eight- 
and-twenty, he pointed out to the latter that, with 
40,000/. lying, so to speak, at one's feet, one need 
not be at the pains of scouring the county in 
search of a wife. But Thomas, it appeared, had 
already scoured the county, had found the wife 
that suited him, and therefore there was no more 
to be said. Mr Preston sighed, swallowed his 
disappointment, and welcomed his daughter-in-law 
kindly. After all, he thought, Thomas, who was 
already comfortably off, had less need to marry an 
heiress than William, who had been for some years 
a subaltern in a marching regiment. Then came 
disappointment the second. William wanted to 
see the world— didn't want to marry Violet — 
didn't think he wanted to marry at all, and cut all 
argument short by exchanging into a corps which 
was under orders for India. This was rather 
serious. At the time of William's departure 


by Google 


Violet was within a few months of completing 
her twenty-first year; without being precisely a 
beauty, she had more than the average share of 
good looks, and if Mr Preston had not had a third 
string to his bow, he would have been inconsolable. 
His head-gardener and factotum was in the habit, 
when contemplating a certain field which produced 
nothing but the worst kind of hay, of saying 
solemnly: "Hashes to hashes and dust to dust! 
If the 'osses won't eat it, the cows must." This 
consolatory distich reassured Mr Preston. "My 
dear, she will make an admirable wife for Bob," 
he said to Mrs Preston, who agreed with him — as 
indeed she always agreed with him. 

And Bob, a young lieutenant in the navy, 
fulfilled expectation. Returning, bearded and 
bronzed, from a long spell of foreign service, 
he not only fell over head and ears in love with 
his cousin, but had the good fortune — or so, at 
least, his parents flattered themselves — to secure 
her affection in return. For six weeks the young 
people had been together from morning to night. 
Together they had ridden, driven and danced; 
together they were accustomed to wander about 
the garden after dinner, while their seniors dozed 
placidly, and together there seemed every reason 
to hope that they would spend the remainder of 
their lives. Thus it came to pass that Mr Preston, 


by Google 


sipping his claret in the twilight, pronounced the 
world to be a pleasant place. 

If he could have transported himself to a spot 
some two hundred yards away from the arm-chair 
in which he was reposing, and if he could have 
overheard the dialogue that was being carried on 
there, it is quite possible that he might have 
modified his opinion. For, leaning over the iron 
fence which separated the garden from the park, 
was a slim, dark-haired lady whose blue eyes were 
flashing wrathfully, while the countenance of her 
companion, a good-looking young fellow with a 
close-cut brown beard, wore an expression of 
gloomy displeasure. Any casual observer who 
had come upon them suddenly would have felt no 
doubt but that he was looking on at a lovers' 
quarrel. As such, however, it was not considered 
by the principals. 

44 1 don't quite understand what you mean," the 
girl was saying with considerable dignity, 44 by 
speaking to me like this " 

44 Oh," broke in the other, a I only mean what 
I say. Nothing more, nothing less." 

44 And what you say is that I am never to speak 
to any man without having first obtained your 
gracious permission." 

44 1 don't remember saying that" 

44 It comes to the same thing. If you claim the 


by Google 


right to object in one case I suppose you would 
claim it in all. What I can't make out is why 
you should think that you have a right to object 
in any case." 

"You don't put things fairly, Vi. I told you 
I was sorry to see you encouraging that man 
Lightfoot, and I gave you my reasons for being 

"Such convincing reasons! You happen to 
dislike him personally, and his father got into 
some scrape or other some time before the flood ! 
And I don't like to be accused of ' encouraging ' 
people : I think it a very impertinent expression." 

" If dancing four times running with the same 
partner isn't encouragement, I don't know what 
is," returned the young man doggedly. 

A smile broke out upon Miss Ripley's lips. " I 
think I remember somebody else with whom I 
danced more than four times that same evening," 
she remarked quietly. 

"That was a different thing altogether. You 
might dance fourteen times with me and it would 
mean nothing. Nobody knows that better than 
I do." 

"Oh. Still, I don't see what right you have 
to reproach me for dancing any number of times 
with another partner." 

"The right of your nearest male relative present 



by Google 


on the occasion. I don't consider myself entitled 
to any other." 

Perhaps this was not the answer which the 
young lady had expected : at all events it did not 
seem to please her. She frowned and turned 
away with an impatient movement, saying, " Uncle 
William is quite capable of taking care of me, I 

u I dare say he is ; but he can't very well take 
care of you in his absence, and it was only because 
he was absent from the ball that I took the liberty 
of warning you against that fortune-hunting fellow." 

" How do you know that he is a fortune-hunter? 
I don't believe he is anything of the sort. I wish, 
Bob, you would sometimes allow me to forget that 
I have a fortune to be hunted ! I wish with all 
my heart that I had no fortune ! " 

"Yet 40,000/. are not to be despised," re- 
marked the young man, with a grave smile. 

"I don't despise the money, though I don't 
think I care about it much. What I do despise 
is the absurd importance that some people seem 
to attach to it. You, for instance." 

"Forty thousand pounds at 4 J per cent, is 
1800/. a year," remarked Bob imperturbably. "It 
is not a colossal income, but I don't mind admitting 
that I think it a comfortable one — and so, no 
doubt, does Mr Lightfoot." 


by Google 


44 At any rate he has not told me so," retorted 
the girl. She added, rather defiantly, "He is 
very kind and pleasant, and he dances remarkably 
well, and when I know him better 1 dare say I 
shall find out that he has other good qualities. If 
he considers 1800/. a year a comfortable income, 
he is only like you and the rest of the world, it 

44 Oh, yes," replied Bob calmly. 44 Perhaps, if 
there is any difference between us, it is that I 
might consider a certain price too high a one to pay 
even for 1800/. a year, whereas I don't think that 
he would. But of course I may be wronging him." 

The words were somewhat ambiguous, but he 
really did not think that she could misunderstand 
them. According to his ideas — which may or may 
not have been absurd — a naval lieutenant, with 
nothing except his pay and the allowance made 
him by his father, would be parting with no less 
a treasure than his self-respect by proposing 
marriage to a young lady of independent fortune ; 
and no one, surely, would be so insane as to say 
or think that the ownership of 1800/. a year 
would be dearly purchased if coupled with that of 
so supremely lovely and charming a creature as 
Miss Ripley. Yet such was the perverse con- 
struction which she was pleased to put upon his 


by Google 


"You are more frank than flattering," she re- 
marked. " Perhaps I ought to be thankful that 
there are some people in the world who wouldn't 
mind incurring the penalty. I had no idea that 
you were so very fond of money." 

U I ? — fond of money ? What do you mean ? " 

44 Well, you seem to think yourself quite extra- 
ordinarily self-denying because there are certain 
conditions upon which you wouldn't accept it. As 
a general rule, that much is taken for granted. 
But perhaps we had better drop the subject; it 
isn't worth quarrelling over." 

44 No, Violet," answered the young man rather 
sadly; 44 I don't want to quarrel with you — 
especially as this will be our last evening together. 
I'm off to Portsmouth to-morrow." 

If he thought that this announcement would call 
forth any expression of regret or surprise from his 
companion, he was disappointed. She only turned 
and began to move in the direction of the house, 
saying carelessly, ;4 Oh, I didn't know you meant 
to go away so soon." 

44 1 have to go through a course of gunnery 
instruction," Bob explained; and he might have 
added that he was not under orders to join for 
another week, and that his hasty exit had only 
been decided upon within the last ten minutes. 
Being of an unsuspecting temperament, he had 


by Google 


allowed himself to fall in love with his cousin 
without wondering why they should have been 
so much left alone. The almost simultaneous dis- 
covery of his parents' designs and the girl's own 
evident predilection for another suitor had con- 
vinced him that the sooner he withdrew the better 
it would be for his peace, and if he had adopted 
the unwise course of cautioning her against that 
suitor, it was only because he really thought ill of 
the man and believed himself to be above any 
ignoble motives of jealousy. 

That same evening, after Mr Preston had read 
family prayers and had gone to see that all the 
doors and windows were securely fastened — a duty 
which he could never be persuaded to delegate 
to any one else — Bob briefly communicated his 
intentions to his mother, who threw up her hands 
in consternation and exclaimed, " I know what it 
is ! Violet has refused you." 

" I assure you she has done nothing of the sort, 
mother," replied the young man, with his nose 
rather in the air. "Violet has not refused me, 
because I have not proposed to her. No doubt 
she would refuse me if I gave her the chance; 
but I am not going to give her the chance." 

"Dear, dear!" sighed Mrs Preston; "this is 
most unfortunate. We all thought " 

"Yes, I know you did/' interrupted her son; 


by Google 


"and you were all mistaken. I'm very sorry; but 
I can't help it." 

"Your father will be terribly vexed," murmured 
the old lady. 

Bob said he couldn't help that either, and to 
avoid further discussion went to bed. 

Mr Preston's vexation did not, however, prove 
to be so great as his wife had anticipated. His 
natural shrewdness and lifelong experience had 
gifted him with a tolerably clear insight into 
human character, and he thought he knew very 
well why his son was hurrying away without 
apparent cause, and why Miss Ripley so osten- 
tatiously abstained from expressing any regret 
at his retreat. When one is young one has 
high-flown ideas. If one is a poor lieutenant 
in the navy, one shrinks from declaring one's 
love to an heiress; if, on the other hand, one is 
a modest and properly brought-up young woman, 
one cannot possibly bring oneself to speak the 
first word. The old gentleman was not ill-pleased 
that his son should display a delicacy which he 
felt to have been somewhat lacking in himself, and 
expressed his conviction to Mrs Preston that it 
would all come right in the end. "My dear,"" 
said he, " they are ridiculously in love with each 
other. Any fool could see that with half an eye." 

Acquiescence in human folly and contrariety 


by Google 


must, nevertheless, have its limits, < and Mr 
Preston conceived that these had been exceeded 
when his niece returned from her morning ride, 
a day or two after Bob's departure, bringing Mr 
Lightfoot with her, and when she invited that 
gentleman to remain to luncheon. The man, 
being in the house, could not very well be 
turned out of it, but he received a very cold 
welcome, and no sooner had he gone away than 
Miss Ripley was taken to task with a severity to 
which she was not accustomed. 

"My dear girl," said her uncle gravely, "you 
know, without my telling you, that all your 
friends are our friends, and that we are only 
too happy to see them here. But chance ac- 
quaintances are, as a rule, to be avoided; and I 
am convinced that if you knew as much of this 
man Lightfoot as I do, you would never have 
dreamt of asking him to cross my threshold." 

"What do you know of him, Uncle William ?" 
asked Violet, who perhaps suspected the truth, 
that her uncle knew very little indeed about Mr 

"I cannot enter into such matters with young 
ladies. You must take my word for it that he is a 
— an undesirable person." 

"But everybody knows him," persisted the 
girl, for she had not been trained to habits 


by Google 


of unquestioning obedience. And then she ran 
off a list of the county magnates at whose houses 
she had met the undesirable one. 

"I confess that you surprise me," answered 
Mr Preston ; " but the difficulty remains the same. 
Persons of rank and position may, if their tastes 
incline them that way, know disreputable people 
without losing caste : we have not the same 
privilege. We are compelled to be circumspect; 
and for myself, I must say emphatically that I 
disapprove of Mr Lightfoot, and that I should 
have preferred to decline his acquaintance had 
I been allowed any choice in the matter." 

After that, Violet could only apologise and 
promise that the offence should not be repeated. 
This she did with a very good grace; but when 
it was suggested to her that she also should refuse 
to have anything further to say to Mr Lightfoot, 
she pointed out, reasonably enough, that it would 
be impossible for her to ask a friend to luncheon 
one day and cut him dead the next without assign- 
ing some reason for such unusual behaviour. 
Adequate reasons not being forthcoming upon 
the spur of the moment, the incident ended 
there, and the acquaintance which Mr Preston 
had declined was pursued by his niece with that 
increased interest which is the common result of 


by Google 


Miss Ripley had a large circle of friends, and 
many opportunities of widening it which were not 
open to the elderly couple with whom she lived. 
She could easily, if she were so minded, meet Mr 
Lightfoot five or six times a week without depart- 
ing much from her ordinary habits, and as a matter 
of fact this was what she now saw fit to do. She 
never made any secret of the manner in which her 
time was spent, and thus Mr Preston, though not 
seriously alarmed, began to grow a little uneasy. 

" I don't like this intimacy that has sprung up 
between Violet and young Lightfoot," he said to 
his wife one evening. "I think it ought to be 
put a stop to before it goes too far." 

Mrs Preston, who was fat, good-natured, and 
constitutionally averse to taking trouble, sighed, and 
asked whether it mattered much. " Violet would 
never think of marrying him," she declared con- 
fidently. "An ugly little snub-nosed man like 
that ! What could she possibly see in him ? " 

"I do not consider him an ugly man myself," 
replied Mr Preston impartially; "though I will 
go so far as to say that he has a rascally counte- 
nance. However, I have no sort of fear of Violet's 
falling in love with him. I am as sure that she 
will not do that as I am that he will do his utmost 
to get possession of her and her money." 

" Perhaps he may not be so — so unprincipled as 


by Google 


you think," suggested Mrs Preston, more with a 
view to getting to bed in peace than from any 
abstract love of justice. 

u Pooh !" returned her lord and master; "like 
father like son. I suppose you know that his 
father was warned off Newmarket heath." 

"You don't tell me so! But perhaps he may 
have trespassed unintentionally. I am sure I 
myself " 

" Nonsense ! " interrupted Mr Preston ; " you 
don't understand. I am speaking of a penalty 
inflicted by the stewards of the Jockey Club." 

"What for?" inquired Mrs Preston, stifling a 

"Well, for — for dishonourable conduct in con- 
nection with racing. It would take too long to 
explain fully, and I see that you are not attending. 
This much I can tell you about Lightfoot senior, 
that he lived and died a disgraced man; and of 
course his son inherits a share of his disgrace. 
Rightly or wrongly, it always is so. Besides, any 
one can tell at a glance what sort of character this 
young fellow is. When I see a man wearing 
ridiculously tight trousers and a white scarf, like 
a groom's, with a big horseshoe pin in it, I know 
what to think of him. It is notorious that he has 
no money; yet he is without a profession, and I 
understand that he hunts three days a week during 


by Google 


the winter. Obviously, therefore, he must either 
be a knave or a fool, and for my part I don't think 
he is a fool." 


The worthy solicitor's conclusion, being based 
upon false premisses, was only in part correct. 
Mr Lightfoot, though not a rich man, was by no 
means destitute, and perhaps it may have been 
in some measure owing to that circumstance that 
he had never done anything to earn the epithet 
of knave. That he was very far indeed from 
being a fool was the opinion of all who knew 
him, and of the only person who knew him in- 
timately — namely, himself. Many a man is de- 
scribed as being no one's enemy but his own : of 
Mr Lightfoot it might be truly said that he was 
no one's friend but his own. The son of a sport- 
ing gentleman-farmer, whose career as an owner 
of racehorses had been brilliant but brief, James 
Lightfoot had learned very early in life to view 
men and things with a cynicism which was perhaps 
the more sincere for being seldom or never 
verbally expressed. He had passed through bad 
times and good times, and had quietly studied 
the causes which had led to each. He had seen 
his father — a jolly, good-tempered fellow with a 


by Google 


red face and a loud voice — smiled upon by the 
aristocracy of the turf, treated with the utmost 
respect by his neighbours and admired by the 
general public; and he had seen the same man 
ostracised, despised and insulted for having com- 
mitted an offence which persons of higher rank 
had committed — or, at all events, had been said 
to have committed — with impunity. These and 
other observations of the ways of the world had 
led him to form an opinion of human nature at 
large which occasional study of his own was in 
every way calculated to confirm. When he was 
left an orphan, he dispassionately took stock of 
his position and possessions, and found the latter, 
upon the whole, more satisfactory than the former. 
He was the owner of a moderate fortune, he was 
fairly well educated, and the glass before which he 
shaved himself in the morning reflected a square, 
dark-complexioned countenance which could not 
be called unpleasing. In addition, he had a 
thorough knowledge and love of horses, and a 
profound contempt alike for the intellect and the 
morals of his fellow-men. To set against these 
advantages there was his lack of social standing. 
This he now determined to acquire, and eventu- 
ally did acquire. The squires of the neighbour- 
hood, less rigid than Mr Preston, did not mould 
their conduct upon the lines of the bitter old 


by Google 


Mosaic dispensation, and saw no reason why a 
modest, unassuming young fellow like Lightfoot, 
who rode straight to hounds and was exceedingly 
obliging and useful in matters connected with the 
purchase or sale of hunters, should be treated as 
an outcast because he had had the misfortune 
to have a scamp for a father. By degrees, there- 
fore, they allowed him to become acquainted with 
their wives and daughters; and if, in order to 
achieve this end, he had to part with some valu- 
able animals at a less price than they had cost 
him, he did not consider the money thus sacrificed 
as thrown away. By the wives and daughters 
he was tolerated rather than liked ; which was a 
subject of regret to him, because his intention 
was to render his footing more sure by marrying 
one of the daughters. Women, as a rule, are 
at first attracted by a cold and reserved manner; 
but when they have tried to break it down in 
vain, they instinctively assume an attitude of an- 
tagonism; and so Lightfoot, upon whom a cer- 
tain reserve was imposed by his blank indifference 
to everything under the sun except his own 
prospects, did not make much headway with the 
ladies. They asked him to dinner, however, 
and the men thought him a very decent sort of 

To the patient all things come, and to Mr 


by Google 


Lightfoot came, in the fulness of time, a piece 
of good fortune in the shape of an introduction 
to Miss Ripley. From that day his plans, hitherto 
somewhat vague, took definite form. Miss Ripley 
was personally agreeable to him ; her fortune, as 
a matter of course, was still more so; and what 
was most agreeable of all was that the acquisition 
of both seemed likely to cost but little trouble. 
As sharp as a needle in matters of material in- 
terest, he knew as little as he cared about affairs 
of the heart, and when he found that he had made 
a favourable impression upon this well- dowered 
maiden, imagined that all the rest would be plain 
sailing. For opposition on the part of the Preston 
family he was prepared ; but Miss Ripley was of 
age, and opposition which can be supported only by 
moral force was, in his eyes, scarcely worth taking 
into account. 

Had Lightfoot been able to overhear the de- 
scription of his person and presumed character 
which was keeping Mrs Preston from her bed 
at eleven o'clock at night, he would probably 
have been more amused than offended; but if, 
on the other hand, Mr Preston could have read 
the thoughts which were passing through Light- 
foot's mind at that same hour, he would most un- 
doubtedly have been more offended than amused. 
The young man was sitting in the snuggery which 


by Google 


was the only tolerably well-furnished room in the 
rambling old farmhouse that he had inherited from 
his father. With his hands thrust into his trousers' 
pockets and his legs stretched out before him, he 
was meditatively smoking a cigar. The Field, 
which he had been reading, had slipped from his 
knees to the ground, and the current of his re- 
flections ran somewhat on this wise : — 

"I wonder how the deuce that old lawyer 
managed to get such a good business. Not by 
brains, that's very certain. Of course he wants 
to keep the girl's money, and small blame to him ! 
— so should I. Only I don't think I should be 
quite such a goose as to play my hand in the open 
way that he does. I don't think I should be 
rude to a man in my own house because I sus- 
pected my niece of having taken a fancy to him. 
It was bad form in the first place, and it was 
unnaturally stupid in the second. If she hadn't 
liked me before, she would have begun to like me 
then ; and as for our young naval friend, I doubt 
whether he ever had much of a chance." He rose 
and took a turn or two up and down the room ; 
then resumed his seat and his soliloquy. "I 
suppose 1 shall have to get the old fool's consent, 
though. It isn't essential, but it would look 
better — a great deal better ; and looks, after all, 
are of importance. I must think it over as soon 


by Google 


as I have got her consent. I wonder how soon I 
might venture to speak. Could I do it at the 
races to-morrow, for instance? It would be 
doubtful policy to put off too long ; still I believe 
women don't like to be hurried — ladies, at least." 
He smiled as he recalled certain bygone conquests 
which had not required much manoeuvring on his 
part ; but the smile left his features abruptly and 
was succeeded by an anxious frown. u I do hope," 
he muttered, "that I'm not going to perpetrate 
the absurdity of felling in love with this girl ! I 
certainly have a feeling about her that I never had 
about anyone before ; but, hang it, that's not love, 
surely! It's — it's respect, or something of that 
sort — a very proper feeling to have towards one's 
wife. And yet . . . James Lightfoot, my good 
friend, you must mind what you're about ; you're 
letting your animal instincts get the better of you, 
sir. Come; I'll test you. Would you marry 
Miss Ripley if she hadn't a hundred a year of her 
own ? Not you ! " He laughed a little and drew 
a breath of relief. "I see how it is. She's 
a handsome girl, and I've been playing a part 
till I've come almost to believe in it, that's all. If 
there is a spice of reality in it, why, so much 
the better; it won't last long enough to be any 

Reassured by this comforting conviction, Mr 


by Google 


Lightfoot went upstairs to bed, and was soon 
enjoying the sound sleep to which a fine constitu- 
tion and a well-balanced mind entitled him. 


Neither Mr nor Mrs Preston was in the habit of 
attending the annual Westhampton race-meeting. 
In their young days racing had been held to be a 
pastime reserved for the aristocratic and the dis- 
reputable, and now that they were old they felt 
no inclination to diverge from the traditions of 
middle-class respectability. Miss Ripley, however, 
was free to do as her friends did, and on the 
morning to which this brief sketch of a part of 
her life has brought us, she might have been seen 
on the top of a drag near the winning-post, looking 
in the best of health and spirits, and delighting 
the eyes of the passers-by with her fresh beauty. 

The eyes of Mr Lightfoot, who happened to be 
one of these, glistened when he caught sight of 
her ; but he only bowed and walked on. He was 
a man who never neglected details, and he preferred 
being brought back to luncheon by the owner of 
the drag, with whom he was acquainted, to climb- 
ing up upon it without a direct invitation. He 
accomplished his purpose by-and-by without any 


by Google 


difficulty ; for upon a racecourse his company was 
always sought with that extra cordiality which 
even the least avaricious of men cannot but show 
towards those whose advice may put them in the 
way of making a little money. He himself was 
quite aware of this circumstance, and was careful 
to pay for his luncheon with a few judicious hints 
distributed among his entertainers. If he indulged 
himself with an occasional touch of irony at their 
expense, he only did so because he knew that there 
was not the slightest fear of their detecting it. 
To Miss Ripley he showed no marked attention, 
and it was not until she casually mentioned that 
she had never yet seen a start that he perceived 
his opportunity, and sprang at it before anyone 
else could anticipate him. 

"If you would allow me to pilot you through 
the crowd," he said, "we might easily see the 
horses get off for the next race, and be back 
again before the finish." 

"Thank you, Mr Lightfoot," answered Violet; 
"I should like it of all things." And presently 
the pair were wending their way, side by side, 
through as noisy and crowded a solitude as the 
most diffident lover could have desired. 

Diffidence was not exactly among Mr Lightfoot's 
defects, but he was far from feeling at his ease 
now. He had almost made up his mind before 


by Google 


starting that he would propose that day ; yet some- 
how the decisive moment seemed to have come 
upon him unexpectedly, and he was conscious of 
a recurrence of that singular sensation which he 
had attributed, the night before, to respect for the 
lady of his choice Absorbed in his own thoughts, 
he scarcely heard what his companion was saying, 
and turned round with a start at last when he 
realised that a question was being addressed to 

" I beg your pardon ! — you were asking whether 
I went to all the great races. Yes ; I don't miss 
many meetings, great or small. You see," he 
added in a slightly apologetic tone, "I haven't a 
large number of interests in life, and I can't 
boast of much talent or knowledge, except as 
regards horseflesh. That I do know something 
about; and a good race well ridden is a finer 
sight to look at than anyone who only sees a 
horse galloping and a man on his back can under- 
stand. " 

" Yes ; no doubt. You are like the artists who 
go into ecstasies over old pictures which only strike 
ordinary mortals as being singularly unlike anything 
in nature. And then, I suppose," pursued Miss 
Ripley tentatively — for she was curious to discover 
whether current reports as to Mr Lightfoot's 
manner of living were well founded or not — U I 


by Google 


suppose you have the satisfaction of carrying away 
a nice little sum from each of these meetings." 

" Well, no ; I haven't that satisfaction. I never 

" Never bet ! " repeated Violet, with raised eye- 
brows. " And yet you always seem to know what 
horse will win." 

Lightfoot smiled. u Not always. Here in my 
own county I can form a pretty shrewd guess, of 
course, but I don't set up for a prophet elsewhere ; 
and even here, as I told you, I don't turn my 

knowledge to account. The fact is " He 

paused for a moment, looking down to the ground, 
then resumed rather hurriedly : u Perhaps you may 
have heard — that is, you must have heard — about 
my poor father." 

Violet reddened and murmured something un- 
intelligible ; for indeed it was not easy to make 
any articulate response. 

"He was more sinned against than sinning," 
the young man went on ; " still it would be absurd 
to pretend that he was blameless. I know what 
his temptations were, and I know what mine 
might easily be; so, fond as I am of racing, I 
have never owned a racer, and as for betting, I 
gave that up years ago, when I found what it 
might lead me to." 

The statement was not quite so straightforward 


by Google 


as it appeared to be. Mr Lightfoot, it was true, 
had so far taken to heart the lesson taught by his 
father's misfortunes that he had determined never 
even to run a plater ; but his reason for so deter- 
mining was most likely identical with his reason 
for eschewing betting ; and that was a somewhat 
remarkable one. He had convinced himself that 
backing horses could not be made to pay. As he 
is probably the only experienced backer who has 
ever arrived at this conclusion — or, at all events, 
the only one who has had the courage of his 
convictions — the circumstance seems to deserve 
mention. Upon the present occasion his words 
had precisely the effect which he had intended 
them to have. Miss Ripley was not only very 
sorry for him, but admired his courage and 

"I dare say you are quite right," she said 
gently, after a short pause; "it is always better 
to be upon the safe side. Only I don't think 
you need have been much afraid of temptation." 

" Why do you say that ? " asked the young man 

"Because," she answered, raising her eyes 
frankly to his, "I am sure you are honest." 

The compliment was not, perhaps, expressed 
exactly in the form which a little more reflection 
would have suggested; for, after all, it is an 


by Google 


awkward thing to congratulate a man upon 
differing from his father with regard to that 
especial virtue, but such as it was it gave intense 
satisfaction to Lightfoot, whose pale cheek flushed 
with pleasure. 

"I won't contradict you," he said. "It has 
been the one aim and object of my life to be 
perfectly straight in all my dealings. I have tried 
never to give any man an excuse for turning round 
upon me and saying, c I didn't know what you were 
driving at.' I should like, if it were possible, 
always to let everyone with whom I have to do 
know just what I am driving at." 

"Why should that not be possible?" Miss 
Ripley asked. 

Lightfoot did not answer for a moment, but 
glanced at her in a peculiar manner. " Well, it 
isn't always possible," he said at last, with a sigh. 
" Sometimes one hasn't the necessary courage." 

In this instance, nevertheless, he had certainly 
shown the courage which he disclaimed. Miss 
Ripley perfectly understood his meaning, and he 
saw that she understood it. Had he been more 
experienced in the ways of women, he might have 
thought her composure a disquieting omen; but 
as a matter of fact, he interpreted it in quite the 
opposite sense, and concluded with exultation that 
the victory was won. 


by Google 


"Miss Ripley," he began gravely, but got no 
further ; for at that moment there arose a general 
shout of a They're off! " Then came a thunder- 
ing sound upon the turf, and half-a-dozen brightly 
coloured jackets flashed past and were gone. 

" Dear me ! " exclaimed Lightfoot penitently, 
"I forgot all about the start." 

" So did I," answered Violet ; " but it doesn't 
matter. "I am one of those ignorant persons 
whom you spoke of, who see nothing in a race 
except a number of horses galloping, and I 
shouldn't have known whether it was a good start 
or a bad one. Shall we go back now ? " 

Lightfoot assented silently. The interruption 
had disturbed his ideas, and he had to rehearse 
the speech that he had intended making over 
again. However, Fate or Fortune had decreed 
that that speech was to remain unuttered. On 
a sudden a shrill voice from the crowd piped out, 
" Hi ! mum, yer gown's afire ! " — and an instant 
afterwards something had taken place which called 
for action, not words. A blazing fuzee, flung 
away by some careless smoker, might have robbed 
the world of a charming woman and Mr Lightfoot 
of a fair prospect of 40,000/., had that gentleman 
not happened to be a man who kept his wits 
about him in times of emergency. Violet scarcely 
realised her danger till the whole thing was over. 


by Google 


Without a moment's warning she found herself 
thrown down upon the grass ; she saw but scarcely 
felt the flames which for one second enveloped 
her, and which Lightfoot, who had torn off his 
coat and wrapped it tightly round the girl's body, 
had some little difficulty in extinguishing ; but in 
her bewilderment she had no time to be frightened, 
and when she fully recovered her senses all peril 
was past. Lightfoot was standing over her, pale, 
and panting a little ; his shirt-sleeve was burnt up 
to the shoulder. A policeman had run up and was 
keeping back the crowd. Violet, looking down, 
discovered that nothing remained of her dress 
except a blackened rag; her right hand was 
somewhat red and blistered, but otherwise she 
was quite unhurt, and said so, laughing rather 
hysterically in answer to the young man's anxious 

"We had better get out of this as soon as 
possible," Lightfoot said. The policeman was 
helping him on with his coat, and he winced 
slightly as he passed his arm into the sleeve. 
" Get back, will you ! " he exclaimed savagely, 
turning round upon the crowd, which was follow- 
ing close upon the heels of the charred couple. 
" What the devil do you expect to get by hustling 
us? Do you think we are going to burst into 
flames again for your amusement ? I only wish I 


by Google 


knew which of you cads threw down that lighted 
match ? " 

"What would you do to him?" asked Violet, 
glancing at the young man's angry face. She 
had never seen Mr Lightfoot in a passion before, 
and the truth is that wrath was very becoming to 
him — as indeed it is to all pale-complexioned 

44 1 would break his neck," answered Lightfoot, 
looking as if he fully meant what he said. " Thank 
heaven it is no worse ! You have had a narrow 
shave, Miss Ripley. Are you sure you are not 

44 Quite sure. And you? Oh, but you are! 
— you are dreadfully hurt ! " she exclaimed 
suddenly, catching sight of her companion's hand, 
which in truth presented a sufficiently sickening 

He put it behind his back hastily. 44 It is 
nothing," he said ; 44 only a scorch. These things 
always look worse than they really are." 

And before Violet could say more she was sur- 
rounded by excited friends, enveloped in shawls, 
helped into the carriage of a good-natured lady, 
and driven off homewards. Not until she was a 
mile away from the racecourse did she remember 
that she had not even spoken a word of thanks to 
the man who had saved her life. 


by Google 



As for Mr Lightfoot, it is probable that if he had 
encountered the heedless author of the accident he 
would have abstained, after all, from breaking the 
neck of one who had rendered him a signal service. 
He felt quite sure of success now, and the week 
which he spent in bed, by the doctor's orders, was 
not an unpleasant week, in spite of the sufferings 
which a badly burnt arm and hand necessarily en- 
tailed. It brought him, among other agreeable 
things, a host of inquiries and congratulations, a 
vast supply of flowers, grapes and ice from all 
quarters, and a very prettily expressed note from 
Miss Ripley, in which all previous omissions were 
amply atoned for. He had never in his life trusted 
to luck, nor believed much in any such thing ; but 
he could not help thinking that he was in luck's 
way now, and he would have been still more con- 
vinced of this if he had understood his case better 
and had known the turn that affairs where taking 
at Mayfield. 

The peace of that quiet household had been 
a good deal disturbed by Miss Ripley's accident. 
Mr Preston, feeling that decency forbade him any 
longer to refuse the acquaintance of the obnoxious 
Lightfoot, had grumbled and growled in a manner 


by Google 


not usual with him, and had made things very un- 
comfortable for his wife, who, for her part, had 
been thrown into such agitation by the mere 
thought of her niece's adventure as to lose her 
appetite for two whole days. "My dear," she 
repeated over and over again to Violet, "I don't 
know what Bob will say when he hears of this ! " 

And [perhaps it was rather a pity that the point 
should have been so much dwelt upon; because, 
when a letter bearing the Portsmouth post-mark 
arrived a few days later, Miss Ripley naturally 
requested to be informed what Bob had said — a 
request which, as it happened, there was a diffi- 
culty about acceding to. Mrs Preston tried to 
temporise and equivocate. She said, a Oh, he 
was dreadfully distressed — he thought we ought 
all to be very thankful that it was no worse — I 
don't recollect his exact words," and so forth; 
but it wouldn't do. She had long ago estab- 
lished an unfortunate standing order to the effect 
that all her letters might be read by her niece 
upon the condition that the latter should under- 
take to answer them, and she found herself unable 
to revoke this contract at pleasure. Indeed, it 
was under her very nose, and in spite of all her 
expostulations, that Miss Ripley seized Bob's letter 
and read the following odious sentences : — 

"Please offer my congratulations to Violet on 


by Google 


her escape. Mr Lightfoot is also to be congratu- 
lated, notwithstanding his singed wing; and I take 
it that before long I shall be called upon to con- 
gratulate them both again — though not on an 
escape. As for you, my dear mother, I can but 
condole with you and with my father. It is sad 
to think that, in spite of all our efforts, 40,000/. 
are likely to pass away from the family for ever ; 
but we must console ourselves with the thought 
that we have done our best to keep them." 

It was all very well for Mrs Preston to begin 
sobbing because Violet, after reading this, de- 
clared in so many words that her cousin was no 
gentleman; but tears, though they may serve to 
bring about apologies and embraces, cannot blot 
out a written insult, and when Miss Ripley set 
forth to take a long walk and recover herself, 
her anger against the brutal Bob was not one 
whit diminished. 

Perhaps it was chance that led her to turn her 
steps in the direction of Mr Lightfoot's house : it 
certainly was nothing else that brought him out 
to the gate, with his arm in a sling and his pale 
face paler than usual. But when once these two 
had met, chance had nothing further to say 
to the matter, and the outcome of their inter- 
view was inevitable. It did not last long, and 
the language employed on both sides was calm 


by Google 


and sober; but it ended in a manner highly 
satisfactory to one, at least, of the parties con- 
cerned, while as for the other, the frequency 
with which she assured herself, during the course 
of her walk home, that she had done the right 
thing in engaging herself to Mr Lightfoot may 
be taken as evidence that she also was satisfied. 
It was true that she did not love him; but that 
was only because it was not in her nature to 
fall in love with anybody. Besides, she had been 
careful to inform him of this possible drawback to 
their happiness, and he had not seemed to think 
much of it. He had answered at once that there 
was lpve enough in his heart for two; which, to 
be sure, when you came to analyse it, was a rather 
nonsensical speech. Still it had been well meant, 
and Mr Lightfoot was a kind, noble and disin- 
terested man, who would do his best to make 
the life which he had saved happy, and to whom 
she, on her side, would certainly endeavour to 
be a good wife. And having arrived at this 
climax, Miss Ripley, who happened to be in an 
unfrequented wood at the time, sat down on the 
ground and cried for five minutes as if her heart 
would break. After that, she dried her eyes 
and marched cheerfully homewards to break the 

This, of course, was a task demanding some 


by Google 


little courage, and Violet knew that nothing but 
the most uncompromising opposition was to be 
looked for from her uncle. But the tone which 
Mr Preston took up was not quite what she 
had anticipated, nor did she find it by any means 
so easy to combat as reproaches and denunciations 
would have been. 

"My dear girl," the old gentleman said, after 
blowing his nose loudly several times and look- 
ing quite heart-broken, "you are now your own 
mistress, and I am deprived of all control over your 
actions. This may or may not be an unfortunate 
feet — you and I are hardly likely to agree as 
to that — but a fact it is. If, then, you see fit 
to make a match of which I must strongly dis- 
approve, I can neither forbid your doing so nor 
take any steps to protect you from the con- 
sequences of your choice, except in seeing that 
your money is settled upon yourself. Yet, in 
consideration of my age and of the many years 
during which I have been your guardian, you 
may perhaps be disposed to allow some little 
weight to my wishes and judgment." 

"Uncle William," said the girl, "you know 
very well that I should never think of marrying 
anybody without your full consent." 

" In that case, my dear, there is not the slightest 
chance of your marrying Mr Lightfoot." 


by Google 


" Oh, but I think you will give your consent. 
You may not like him personally ; but you would 
not be so unjust as to prevent our marriage 
because your taste does not happen to agree with 
mine, and you must admit that there is not a word 
to be said against Mr Lightfoot's character." 

44 1 admit nothing, my dear," replied Mr Preston, 
with a wave of his hand and a smile, 44 I admit 
nothing ; and as for what you call personal dislike, 
I believe I am not so silly as to dislike any man 
without a reason. But are you convinced that 
you yourself like this man? 4 Like' is not a 
strong enough word : are you convinced that you 
love him ? " 

44 Do you think it possible that I should have 
accepted him if I had not cared for him ? " 

44 Oh, dear me, yes ! — quite possible. Probable, 
indeed, taking all the circumstances into account. 
Now I am going to touch upon a delicate subject," 
continued Mr Preston, 44 and I may perhaps offend 
your pride, but where the happiness of two lives 
is at stake one should not be over-squeamish. 
You know, my dear Violet, that although I do 
not talk about all that I see, I am not blind ; and 
the attachment which existed not so very long 
ago between you and my son Robert was 
sufficiently obvious " 

44 There never was anything of the sort ! " inter- 


by Google 


rupted Violet, with her cheeks aflame. "You 
are altogether mistaken." 

Mr Preston laughed gently and shook his head. 
"Pique, my dear, pique — just what I expected. 
Now lovers' quarrels are all very fine, but we 
mustn't go beyond the limits of reconciliation. 
Believe me, Robert is " 

"I know perfectly well what Robert is," broke 
in Violet impatiently; "and I know what he 
never will be, too. He was polite enough to tell 
me that he would like my money very much, but 
that marrying me would be paying too long a 
price for it ; and since then he has written a most 
insulting letter about me without any provocation. 
I cannot imagine any two people detesting one 
another more cordially than Robert and I." 

"That is absurd, my dear," answered Mr 
Preston placidly. "No man — Bob least of all 
— would make such a speech as you mention, 
but I can easily believe that the fact of your being 
well off might lead him to conceal his feelings. 
From Mr Lightfoot, on the other hand, I should 
not expect so much scrupulousness." 

"Mr Lightfoot," returned Violet, "has never 
given you any excuse for saying that." 

"Well, I shouldn't expect it of him, that's 
all. I shouldn't expect it of the generality of 
mankind. Are you really under the impression 


by Google 


that Mr Lightfoot would marry you if you hadn't 
a penny ? " 

"I am quite sure that he would," replied 
Violdt firmly ; " and so would you be if you knew 
him better. - Uncle William, if I can convince you 
that it is myself and not my money that he cares 
for, will you consent to — to what he wishes ? " 

Mr Preston rubbed his hands and said cheer- 
fully, "Now that is what I call sensible; that is 
bringing matters to a reasonable issue. Yes, my 
dear; you have only to convince me that this 
young man is wholly disinterested, and I will give 
you away to him on your wedding-day — I won't 
say with pleasure, but at least with proper re- 
signation. You may tell him so from me, if you 

The cautious solicitor thought he had never in 
his life taken upon him a safer engagement, and 
indeed Violet, who now left the room, was aware 
that the process by which conviction could be 
brought home to her uncle must needs be some- 
what difficult of discovery. She had, however, 
already in her mind a half-formed project which, 
if carried into effect, could not fail to silence the 
veriest sceptic. 

The next day Mr Lightfoot drove up to the 
door in a dog-cart, prepared to make formal an- 
nouncement of his engagement to Violet, and to 


by Google 


receive her ex-guardian's blessing or submit to 
his curses with an equal mind. But Mr Preston 
was in his office at Westhampton, and it was 
Miss Ripley who received her suitor when he 
\vas admitted into the drawingroom. The first 
moment of meeting was one of some slight em- 
barrassment to them both. Lightfoot was not 
sure how far he would be expected to assume the 
lover's part, and Violet was in mortal terror lest 
he should assume it only too unequivocally. She 
therefore contrived, with more agility than grace, 
to keep a barrier of furniture between her and 
her visitor until he was safely seated ; after which 
she came out from her intrenchments and took a 
chair opposite to him. 

"Your uncle is not at home, I hear," he re- 
marked presently. 

" No ; and I am glad he is not, because I wanted 
to see you before you spoke to him. I am sorry 
to say that he objects decidedly to our engage- 

44 Ah, I expected that," observed Lightfoot. 

44 But why?" asked Violet, with a touch of 
impatience. 44 Why should you have expected 
him to object?" 

44 Why, naturally, because he doesn't want to 
lose the interest of a fortune," thought Lightfoot ; 
but he only looked down and said, 44 Have you 


by Google 


forgotten what I told you the other day about my 

44 Oh, but indeed it was not that," cried Violet. 
44 1 am sure he never — at least, that was not at all 
what he was thinking of. I had better say it out 
at once, though it is rather disagreeable: he 
accused you of being mercenary." 

"Yes? Well, you see, Miss Ripley, a good 
many people are mercenary." 

44 So it seems : but I hope you are not one of 

"I hope not; only a man who marries an 
heiress must be prepared for such accusations, and 
I'm afraid we can't alter the fact that you are an 
heiress. I don't think we ought to let your 
uncle's opposition trouble us too much. No doubt 
it would be far pleasanter to have his cordial 
approval of our marriage ; but if we can't have it 
— well, we must do without it." 

Violet drew back. 44 I could not do that," she 
said. u I couldn't marry you, or any one, without 
my uncle's consent. He has always been like a 
father to me, and however much I might think 
him in the wrong, I should feel it impossible to 
defy him. But I think I can bring him round." 

Lightfoot swallowed down his irritation. " You 
are quite right, Miss Ripley," he replied quietly, 
u and I will do my best to be patient if you don't 


by Google 


succeed at first. The unfortunate thing is that 
your uncle is one of those practical men who don't 
change their opinions without clear evidence to 
go upon, and how we are to bring evidence to 
show that I am not mercenary I confess I don't 
quite see." 

"Yet such a thing might be done," observed 
Violet. u Mr Lightfoot, would you mind if I had 
no money — if I gave all my money away ? " 

Lightfoot's heart stood still ; but he had great 
self-command, and his face did not change. To 
whom could she give her money away ? Not to 
Mr Preston, who would never dare to risk his 
reputation by accepting such a gift. Not to a 
charity ; for her uncle might safely be trusted to 
avert so dire a catastrophe as that. On the other 
hand, the threat, if made in good faith, as it 
doubtless would be, might prove effectual in 
overcoming the old man's obstinacy. These re- 
flections, which passed through his brain like 
lightning, enabled him to answer with perfect 
composure, "Surely you need hardly have asked 
that question. Are you, too, beginning to suspect 
me of being a fortune-hunter ? " 

Violet's reply was intercepted by the entrance 
of Mrs Preston, who had not been informed of 
Mr Lightfoot's presence, and who was thrown into 
such an agony of embarrassment when she recog- 


by Google 


nised him that he felt bound in common humanity 
to release her from her sufferings and take himself 
off with all despatch. He would have been glad 
to have heard something rather more explicit from 
Miss Ripley with regard to her intentions, but 
upon the whole he was not ill satisfied, feeling 
that there could be no real danger of her part- 
ing with her fortune. "What a fool that girl 
is ! " he muttered to himself as he drove out of 
the gates. "I was very nearly in love with her 
an hour ago, but I'll be hanged if I am now ! " 

Violet, at the same moment, was replying to 
certain tearful ejaculations of her aunt's. " What 
do I see in him? I see that he is trustworthy 
and unselfish, and that he cares for me for my 
own sake. Isn't that enough? I never noticed 
his nose. I dare say it is a snub, as you say so ; 
but really I shouldn't care if it were as crooked 
as a ram's horn. I am not particular about noses." 

All that evening Mr Preston was bland and 
amiable. He made no allusion to his niece's 
matrimonial prospects, and when she begged for 
a few minutes' private conversation on business, 
answered that if to-morrow morning would do as 
well he should prefer to wait. "Never hurry 
your lawyer, my dear," said he with a comfort- 
able sigh. "There is always plenty of time — 
plenty of time." 


by Google 


Violet smiled. If her uncle had guessed what 
the nature of her business was, he would have 
been a little less apathetic, she thought. And 
when the next morning came, she certainly had 
the satisfaction of startling him out of his pro- 
fessional composure. 

"If you please, Uncle William," said she de- 
murely, "I want you to draw out a deed of gift 
— that is the proper expression, is it not? — 
making over the whole of my money to my well- 
beloved cousin, Robert Preston." 

Mr Preston bounded on his chair, and his 
double eye-glass dropped. "You mean this for 
a joke, I suppose," he said presently. 

" Oh, no. Some people value money above all 
things, you know, and others don't care so much 
about it. It is a pity not to gratify everybody's 
tastes when one has the power. At any rate, I 
suppose you will admit now that Mr Lightfoot is 
not a fortune-hunter." 

"May I ask whether Mr Lightfoot has been 
informed of your scheme ? " 

"I had not time to tell him all about it, but 
I believe he understood that I meant to part with 
my money." 

" Ah ! " said Mr Preston, stretching out his 
legs and leaning back in his chair with a smile. 
"Well, Violet, I can only say that if, after you 


by Google 


have impoverished yourself, he is still willing to 
marry you, I shall be proud to welcome him into 
the family; but I am afraid I must decline to 
give you the assistance which you ask for. You 
see, people would be sure to say unpleasant things 
about it, and much as I value money, I value 
my character even more highly. Still, if you are 
quite determined, I daresay there are lawyers in 
Westhampton who would do the business for you. 
Robinson, for instance — a very respectable man 
in his small way." 

"Thank you," said Violet. "Then I will lose 
no time in applying to him." With that, she 
rose to leave the room, but rather marred the 
dignity of her exit by pausing upon the thres- 
hold to say, "I suppose we may take it for granted 
that Robert will accept this money ? " 

"That," replied Mr Preston, "is a point 
upon which I don't feel called upon to offer an 

" / think he will accept," said Violet defiantly. 

" Well," answered her uncle, with perfect good 
humour, " perhaps he will. Perhaps he will." 

So Miss Ripley, with an uncomfortable impres- 
sion that the interview had somehow or other 
been lacking in dramatic effect, drove off to 
Westhampton, where, under her orders, the 
astonished Robinson duly drew up a rough copy 


by Google 


of the deed which was to deprive his client of 
all means of subsistence. 

As for Mr Preston, he, too, betook himself to 
the town shortly afterwards, and, having written 
and despatched a letter to Portsmouth, sat down 
in the arm-chair at his office, rubbing his hands 
and chuckling softly. "I call this great fun," 
he said aloud; and when his eldest son, a grave 
personage, inquired to what he alluded, he replied, 
44 Oh, to nothing worth repeating. You wouldn't 
see the joke, Thomas." 

Two days elapsed, upon both of which Mr 
Lightfoot called at Mayfield, with the discouraging 
result of finding nobody at home ; and on the 
third Violet, who had purposely avoided meeting 
her suitor until she should have tidings of im- 
portance to communicate to him, received the 
following letter : — 

" High Street, Westhampton, 
"August 3, 1 88-. 

44 Madam, — We beg to inform you that we 
have this day heard from Lieutenant Robert 
Preston, H.M.S. Excellent, Portsmouth, who ex- 
presses his readiness to accept the personal 
property which you desired to be conveyed to 
him ; and which, as we understood from you, 
amounts in round numbers to forty thousand 


by Google 


pounds (40,000/.). Awaiting your further instruc- 
tions, we have the honour to be, Madam, 
" Your obedient servants, 

"Robinson and Thompson." 

There was a curt and business-like tone about this 
missive which was not altogether satisfactory to 
its recipient. She had, however, the comfort of 
tossing it across the table to her uncle and re- 
marking, " I told you so ! " 

Mr Preston deliberately stuck his glasses on 
his nose and read the letter through ; after which 
he remarked "Hah!" Then he restored it to 
its envelope and handed it back to his niece with 
a subdued " Hum ! " — which two ejaculations ap- 
parently exhausted all that he had to say upon the 

" You see ! " cried Violet triumphantly. 

"I see; — yes. And now perhaps I had better 
see Mr Light foot." 

" The sooner the better. I will send a note at 
once asking him to come over. But I think I 
ought just to tell him what I have done before he 
meets you, Uncle William." 

Mr Preston said that that would no doubt be 
the best plan ; and so, when Mr Lightfoot put in 
an appearance — as he did within the hour — he 
was shown into the drawingroom, where Miss 


by Google 


Ripley, with sparkling eyes and a slightly flushed 
face, was waiting for him. 

She presented so much the appearance of being 
in a towering passion that Lightfoot was seriously 
alarmed, and began to wonder which of the pec- 
cadilloes of his past life could have been reported 
to her. 

44 What is it, Miss Ripley?" he inquired 
anxiously. u I trust I have not been so unlucky 
as to offend you ? " 

" You? Oh dear, no! I only wished to tell 
you something. You know I asked you, the other 
day, whether you would mind if I gave all my 
money away, and you said it was needless even to 
ask such a question. Well; now I have done 
it. I have given my money away, and my uncle 
can't possibly accuse you of being mercenary 
any longer. You will find him in his study, 
and " 

44 You have given your money away ! " exclaimed 
Lightfoot, aghast. " And to whom, pray?" 

44 To my cousin Robert — if it signifies." 

u And do you mean to say that he has taken 

Violet made a sign of assent. 

44 Then he must be the most contemptible 
fellow that ever walked the earth ! " 

44 He is. At least, I don't know What 


by Google 


does it matter whether he is or not ? He has got 
what he wants, and we have got rid of what we 
don't want, and there's an end of it ! " 

44 An end of it ! — I should think there was an 
end of it ! " was Lightfoot's unspoken comment. 
" Why, the girl's a raving maniac ! " Then he 
said aloud : " I very much regret, Miss Ripley, 
that you should have been so precipitate. When 
you spoke of parting with your fortune, I pre- 
sumed, of course, that you were merely employing 
a figure of speech. I can assure you that my 
affection for you is not at all diminished by the 
step that you have taken, although I may have 
my own opinion about your wisdom and about 
the honesty of your relations. But as for marry- 
ing upon nothing but my small income, I am sorry 
to say that such a thing is altogether out of the 

" Do you mean me to understand, then, that all 
is over between us ? " inquired Violet, maintaining 
her composure very creditably. 

44 1 fear that it must be so. I need not say how 
painful this is to me." 

44 You need not; I can fully enter into your 
feelings of disappointment. I also am disap- 
pointed — in you. Probably, though, you are no 
worse than your neighbours, and I do not forget 
that you saved my life. I am only sorry that 


by Google 


it has turned out less valuable than you supposed 
at the time. Goodbye, Mr Lightfoot." 

" Goodbye, Miss Ripley. I hope you will not 
live to repent of your mistaken generosity." 

When the door had closed behind the discom- 
fited Lightfoot, Violet betook herself to her 
uncle's study. 

"Well; has he gone?" asked Mr Preston briskly. 

44 He has gone. Uncle William, I find that I 
have been mistaken in Mr Lightfoot." 

44 Oh, indeed ! Well, I don't wish to speak in 
any spirit of boastfulness, but I am bound to say 
that / never made any mistake about him from the 
first. The truth is, my dear girl, that although 
you might not suppose it, I really do know a little 
more about men and things than you do. I know, 
for instance, that when a young lady talks about 
marrying A and handing over all her possessions 
to B, she does not in her heart of hearts believe 
that B stands for Barabbas or A for Angel. B 
does not stand for Barabbas, my dear, but for Bob, 
and Robert is not a robber. If, by any chance, 
you should think that you owe him an apology, 
you will soon have an opportunity of offering it ; 
for I have made so bold as to telegraph for him 
in anticipation of what has occurred, and it would 
not surprise me if he were to arrive by the 
evening express." 


by Google 


Having thus delivered himself, Mr Preston seized 
his hat and escaped from the house before any 
reply could be made; and it may be presumed 
that Violet spent the remainder of the day in a 
wholesome exercise of self-examination, for when 
Bob was sent out into the garden that evening 
to look for his cousin he found her very meek and 

"My father tells me that you are anxious to 
beg my pardon," he remarked, after they had 
shaken hands. 

44 I don't know why he should think so ; but I 
am sure I am willing to beg your pardon, Bob, if 
you consider yourself aggrieved. As everybody 
seems to be against me, I suppose I had better 
confess myself in the wrong at once, for the sake 
of peace ; though I do think that, if there is to 
be any begging of pardons, you might begin by 
begging mine for the horrid letter that you wrote 
about me." 

44 1 don't see that at all," returned Bob. "I 
wrote that I expected to hear of your engagement 
to Lightfoot very soon, and I did hear of it sooner 
even than I had anticipated. Was that any reason 
for throwing forty thousand pounds and a studied 
insult at my head? How you can ever have 
believed that I was serious in accepting such a 
gift passes my comprehension ! " 


by Google 


" You did accept it, though." 

" Only in obedience to my father's instructions. 
He said there was no other way of opening your 
eyes and saving you from a life of misery. So I 
did as I was told ; though I confess that I didn't 
half like it. A pretty fool I should have looked 
if Lightfoot had been sharp enough to see the 

"Poor Mr Lightfoot! And I should have 
been burnt to death but for his presence of mind. 
I don't think it was very nice of you to write about 
him in that sneering way. Why did you do it, 

" Because I was jealous of him, I suppose. Oh, 
Violet, you must have known the truth! — you 
must have known that I loved you from the very 
first day that we met I should have told you so 
long ago, if it hadn't been for that cursed money ! 
And even now " 

" Don't call your money names," she interrupted 
quietly ; " you won't find it a curse when you get 
used to it." 

"It is not my money," cried Bob. "What do 
you mean ? " 

"Only that it is your money, or will be very 
shortly. You took it, and now I am determined 
that you shall keep it." 

"I pass for being a rather determined sort of 


by Google 


person too," remarked Bob, "and I can assure 
you that I mean you to keep your money for 

" Even against my own wishes ? " 

"Without any regard for your wishes whatso- 

"Well, then," said Violet with a sigh, "since 
we are both so obstinate, I suppose there is only 
one way out of the difficulty. You will have to 
take the money and me with it, Bob." 


by Google 


IT was on a beautiful afternoon in the month of 
May that Prince Coresco left his Roumanian 
home and set out for Paris. How glad he was to 
go! how delightful it was to him to contemplate 
the very name of his destination, printed upon his 
railway ticket ! We, on this side of the Channel, 
shall never quite understand what Paris means to 
the fashionable and would-be fashionable young 
men of Continental Europe. To them it is still 
— even in these days of republican government 
and diminished glory — the capital of the world, 
the centre of civilisation, the city in comparison 
with which all other cities are but provincial 
towns. They take their tone from it; they as- 
similate, to the best of their ability, the little 
tricks of speech and manner in vogue amongst 
those who claim to lead its society; their great 
ambition is to pass themselves off as being in 
reality what they more or less skilfully counter- 
feit, and their ambition is doomed to perpetual 
disappointment. For if the model in question 
does not, to impartial eyes, appear a particularly 


by G00gle 


noble or inspiring one, it has at least the pecu* 
liarity of being quite inimitable; and one may 
safely say that no foreigner, whether Russ, Pole, 
Spaniard or uncertain cosmopolitan Hebrew, ever 
has been, or ever will be, mistaken for a true 

Prince Coresco, however, though not the rose, 
had lived very near the rose. He was well known 
in Parisian clubs and at Longchamps and Vincennes 
and other places where people lose money ; he lost 
money (of which he had plenty) with a very good 
grace; and as, in truth, he was a well-meaning, 
kind-hearted and simple-minded creature, he was 
liked as much as he was laughed at — which is 
saying a good deal. Not that he ever suspected 
his friends and acquaintances of laughing at him ; 
it would have been a cruel blow to him if he had 
discovered that he was in any way a subject for 
mirth. To be accused of idleness or extravagance, 
he could endure ; his mother sometimes did accuse 
him of these sins. But if there was one thing that 
he was more certain of than another, it was that 
no one had the right to call him ridiculous. He 
had taken such pains to avoid the possibility of in- 
curring that reproach. All that mortal man could 
do towards denationalising himself he had done; 
not for worlds would he have shown himself at 
any European court in the magnificent costume of 


by Google 


his ancestors, which would have suited his hand- 
some face and slim figure so admirably. A story 
used to be told of one of his compatriots, who, 
being present at a great function at Berlin, clad in 
the semi-military garb in question, was noticed by 
a high Prussian personage, who eagerly inquired 
his rank. " C'est un Moldo-Valaque, monseigneur" 
was the answer of the well-informed person applied 
to. "Sijeune, et dejd Moldo-Valaque ! " cried the 
high personage graciously, for, of course, he 
did not wish to appear ignorant of any foreign 
grades, however unfamiliar in sound. Some side- 
wind wafted this anecdote to Paris and, most un- 
truthfully, made our friend Prince Coresco the 
hero of it. u Si jeune, et deja Moldo-Valaque ! " 
the young men at the club used to cry, pointing 
to his decorations, when he strolled in late at 
night, after attending some official reception. He 
had to give up wearing his decorations in con- 
sequence ; he did not like to be reminded of those 
remote Danubian wilds where his estates lay. But 
he never showed any annoyance ; his countenance 
at all times and under all circumstances was per- 
fectly impassive. It is not correct to exhibit emo- 
tion, and Coresco was tres- correct. Those young 
men occasionally called him Correcto ; and he was 
not displeased with the nickname. 

Now, as he took his place in the Orient-express, 


by Google 


and seated himself in the corner of the little com- 
partment reserved for him, he was a model of cor- 
rectness from the tips of his waxed moustache down 
to those of his little shiny-leather boots. His dark- 
coloured kid gloves were quite new ; between his 
fingers he held a cigarette made of the choicest 
tobacco that money could procure ; he crossed one 
shapely leg over the other and looked gravely con- 
tented. He conceived, indeed, that he had good 
reason to be so. He had at last reached the end 
of the long dreary winter; he had escaped from 
the dissipations of Bucharest, which were distaste- 
ful to him, as one accustomed to better things; 
above all, he had escaped from the matrimonial 
engagement into which his mother had tried so 
hard to inveigle him; and now he was going to 
live once more. It was a little late in the year, 
to be sure ; but Paris is never really empty 
until after the Grand Prix ; he would find plenty 
of his old associates at the club ; the old whirli- 
gig of pleasure, which he was too young to have 
wearied of, would be all ready and waiting for 

Thus, with his head full of agreeable anticipa- 
tions, he gazed languidly out of the window at the 
vast, monotonous plains, at the bars of bright yellow 
drawn across them, here and there, by the mustard 
fields, at the oxen dragging their primitive carts 


by Google 


along the unmetalled roads, at the shaggy, bearded 
peasants who turned to stare at the train as it 
rushed past. "Adieu, canaille/" he murmured 
between his teeth. 

As the shades of night began to fall, Prince 
Coresco grew hungry and, getting up, passed into 
the adjoining restaurant-car, where many of his 
fellow-passengers were already seated at dinner. 
To ordinary travellers, accustomed to snatch hasty 
meals when and where they can get them, it ap- 
pears something like the height of luxury to be 
permitted to sit down to a very fairly cooked dinner 
without leaving their train ; but Coresco was fasti- 
dious, and the fare set before him did not earn 
his approval. He made a grimace, shrugged his 
shoulders slightly, and partook of it with resigna- 
tion. He did not much like the company in which 
he found himself either. It was composed of the 
usual horde of tourists returning homewards from 
the East — vociferous Germans, self-asserting Ameri- 
cans, and those astonishing English old maids who 
are to be met with in such profusion in every 
country under the sun, except their own. They 
were all rather dirty, shabby and travel-stained. 
Coresco turned up his nose at them ; he could not 
admit that people have any business to be dirty 
because they are on a journey. He himself was 
as spick-and-span as a new pin, and meant to re- 


by Google 


main so up to the moment of his arrival at the 
Paris terminus. 

However, he ended by acknowledging that there 
were two individuals in this unattractive throng who 
might claim exemption from his vote of censure. 
Strictly speaking, there was only one ; but he gen- 
erously threw in the mother for the sake of the 
daughter. And indeed the younger of the two 
ladies who occupied the table facing his own was 
so charming in appearance that no one, looking at 
her, could have thought it worth while to waste 
time in criticising the elder. Her golden-brown 
hair, her soft hazel eyes and long eyelashes would 
have sufficed in themselves to insure for her the 
admiration of any appreciative stranger; but, in ad- 
dition to these gifts, she had a something — a sort 
of frank friendliness of air, a mixture of innocence 
and hardihood, due evidently to childish ignorance 
of all evil, which is always especially fascinating to 
hardened men of the world, such as Coresco be- 
lieved himself to be. He was not, as a rule, 
particularly fond of English people, whom he 
considered an ill-mannered race, but he was very 
fond of pretty faces, and the more he studied this 
one the more he became interested in it. He 
went so far as to say to himself that it was the 
prettiest face he had ever seen in his life. 

After a time he saw it under a suddenly 


by Google 


changed aspect An animated colloquy had begun 
between the two ladies; the elder was making 
gestures of despair; she dived into her pockets; 
she turned out the contents of her travelling-bag ; 
she fled from the dining-car and presently returned, 
red in the face and gasping: it was as plain as 
could be that she had mislaid her railway tickets. 

"They are gone ! — gone ! " Coresco heard her 
exclaim tragically. "The last time I saw them 
was on the boat, crossing the Danube, when those 
tiresome people came bothering for them, and I 
must have laid them down on the seat beside 
me. Very likely they were blown overboard. 
And the worst of it is that I have no money — 
only about two pounds ! I wrote to the bankers 
to send us circular notes to Vienna. Oh, Daisy, 
what shall we do ? " 

Miss Daisy's face grew long, her eyebrows 
were raised distressfully ; the corners of her mouth 
came down; it really looked very much as if she 
might be going to cry. This was more than the 
gallant Roumanian could bear. It is not correct 
to address total strangers; he had never been 
guilty of such a solecism before; yet there are 
occasions on which conventionality must yield to 
chivalry. He rose in his deliberate way, approached 
the ladies, made a low bow, bringing his heels to- 
gether with a click, and said ; — 


by Google 


u Pardon me, you are in a difficulty about your 
tickets, I think. Can I be of any service to you ? 
I am well known on this line." 

The girl who had been addressed as Daisy 
blushed and threw a grateful glance at the hand- 
some, dark-complexioned young man who stood 
deferentially before her, hat in hand ; the old lady 
broke out into voluble thanks. 

"Oh, how very kind of you! If you would 
be so good as to explain to these people that we 
really are not swindlers ! They will believe you, 
no doubt; I daresay they wouldn't believe us. 
We took our tickets from Constantinople, as they 
can easily find out by telegraphing. Anyhow, I 
will gladly pay the price over again as soon as we 
reach Vienna, but at this moment, most unfortun- 
ately, I have not enough money in my purse." 

"Be at ease, madam," replied Coresco; "the 
affair shall be arranged at once." 

He spoke quite good English, with only a slight 
foreign accent, for he had had an English nurse in 
his childhood ; he was very good-looking and dis- 
tinguished in appearance and manners. The old 
lady beamed upon him and nodded to him as he 
left the car. In a few minutes he returned, bring- 
ing with him two fresh tickets. "Search will be 
made for the others, madam, and if they are found 
your money will be given back to you," he said. 


by Google 


" Oh, but — but " stammered the old lady, 

reddening, " I am afraid — have you paid for these 
tickets ? " 

Coresco smiled, showing his white teeth. He 
produced his card, scribbled beneath his name the 
address of his Paris club, and said, " You are per- 
haps travelling also to Paris? When you shall 
arrive, I will send, with your permission, to claim 
my little debt." 

"Yes, we are going to Paris," answered the old 
lady, " but we shall not be there before the end of 
the week; we are stopping a day or two at 
Vienna. I don't think we ought — really, I am 
quite ashamed " 

However, she could hardly refuse to accept the 
helping hand held out to her in such dire ex- 
tremity ; possibly, too, she rather liked the notion 
of being beholden to a real live prince. It is a 
title which has always exercised a powerful in- 
fluence upon the British imagination. 

"My name is Wilton," she said, "I will give 
you my card ; we shall be at the Hotel du Louvre." 

There was a little conversation after this, but it 
was of a somewhat formal and constrained char- 
acter. Coresco was shy (although he would have 
been profoundly astonished if anyone had told him 
so) ; besides, it did not interest him very much to 
bsa* Mrs Wiltons descriptions of Coustantinople 


by Google 


and of the deficiency of proper hotel accommoda- 
tion in that city. Miss Wilton took no part in 
the colloquy. With her chin resting upon her 
hand, she sat gazing at the flying landscape, with 
her profile turned towards Coresco, who never re- 
moved his solemn black eyes from it. He wanted 
her to speak to him, but did not know how to 
make her do so, for his experience of unmarried 
ladies and their ways was extremely restricted. 
All the recognition that he obtained from her was 
a smiling good-night when she and her mother rose 
to leave the dining-car. 

But the next morning, when he awoke, and, 
after performing his toilet with all the care and 
elegance that circumstances would admit of, pulled 
up his blind, he found that the train had already 
reached Szegedin in Hungary, and upon the plat- 
form there was a peasant-girl, with great bunches 
of lilies-of-the-valley, which she held up to him 
persuasively. He at once let down the window 
and purchased the whole of her stock in trade. 
Those pure white bells, those fresh green leaves, 
reminded him somehow of Miss Wilton, and he 
wondered whether he might venture to offer them 
to her. English people are so odd, he thought ; 
you never can tell whether they are going to chill 
you with their prudery or take your breath away 
by their sans-%£ne. Later in the day, when he 


by Google 


found an opportunity of presenting his bouquet, 
he was almost awkward over it, in spite of the 
little set speech which he had prepared and which 
he duly delivered. He did not blush, because men 
of his complexion very rarely change colour. Miss 
Wilton did that for him ; though she was far less 
embarrassed than he. 

u Oh, what lovely flowers ! " she exclaimed, 
burying her face in them. "How kind of you! 
Thank you so much ! " 

U I should have given you marguerites, should 
I not?" said Coresco, with his slight accent. "But 
they are common flowers — not worthy to bear your 

Miss Wilton laughed. " I think Margaret is a 
pretty name," she said, "much prettier than muguet, 
for instance." 

" And Daisy," said Coresco, " that is prettiest 
of all." 

He lingered almost lovingly over the enunciation 
of the word, and then suddenly felt ashamed of 
himself. Little as he knew about British maidens, 
he knew very well how to make love ; but he was 
not going to turn his knowledge to account in this 
case. In his punctilious way, he felt that it would 
be inexcusable to force anything that might seem 
like attentions upon a lady whom he had just laid 
under an obligation. 


by Google 


But Miss Wilton was unaware of the existence 
of such scruples or of any occasion for them. She 
thought this handsome foreigner a very pleasant 
young fellow — a little stifl^ perhaps, and not re- 
markably brilliant, but quite a gentleman. She 
began chatting to him about her home in England 
and her anxiety to return thither, and the dislike 
to which she confessed for all modes of life that 
were not English. " It is pleasant enough to see 
new countries, but one is always thankful to get 
back to one's own," she said. 

"That depends," remarked Coresco, who, in- 
deed, held a very different opinion. 

"Well, / am thankful, at any rate. I don't 
think I should ever care to go abroad if mamma 
didn't enjoy it so much." 

She soon became entirely at her ease with her 
somewhat silent companion ; she even found some 
of his remarks rather quaint and amusing; but 
when, in the course of the afternoon, she and 
her mother took leave of him at Vienna, with 
reiterated expressions of gratitude and of hope 
that he would call upon them in Paris, she had no 
sort of idea that the train bore away a Roumanian 
prince who was already three parts in love with 

If a man be altogether in love there is not much 
to be done for him, and the malady must be left to 


by Google 


run its course, but in cases which have not advanced 
beyond the stage of acute symptoms, alteratives 
may be employed with fair chance of success ; and 
the truth is that, after Coresco had reached Paris 
and had been duly welcomed by his friends there, 
he did not think very much about Miss Daisy 
Wilton. Once or twice, to be sure, a vision of 
her fresh young face appeared to him in the wreaths 
of tobacco smoke which hung above the card-table; 
but it was so obviously out of place in that atmos- 
phere that he frowned and dismissed it. He had 
plenty of other subjects to think about which, if 
less charming, were more exciting. At least he 
had always hitherto found them exciting; but 
now, to his surprise and alarm, it began gradually 
to dawn upon him that the excitements of former 
years had lost something of their aroma. He was 
not enjoying himself: it was lamentable, but it 
was undeniable. Could growing old before 
his time? To prove to himself that this was a 
groundless apprehension, he dived into deeper 
depths, played more recklessly, dined and supped 
in more uproarious company, and did all that in 
him lay to merit that reputation of a viveur which 
is so highly esteemed in certain circles. But it 
was all in vain ; he only succeeded in earning for 
himself a perpetual headache and a dismal inward 
conviction that even the pleasures of Paris are 


by Google 


doomed to pall upon one who has made too 
intimate acquaintance with them. 

Turning into his club one morning, to breakfast, 
he found an envelope addressed to him, which, on 
being opened, proved to contain a little bundle of 
bank-notes and an effusive letter, signed "Margaret 
Wilton." It struck him as a very absurd, not to 
say annoying, circumstance that Mrs Wilton should 
bear the same name as her daughter. Margaret, 
indeed, when she resembled nothing so much as a 
full-blown peony ! However, it had to be remem- 
bered, in justice to the poor old woman, that neither 
her name nor her complexion were of her own 
choosing; and she wrote in a very friendly and 
amiable way. Would Prince Coresco take pity 
upon two lonely travellers and dine quietly with 
them that evening, if he had no other engagement? 
They would be so glad to see him and to thank 
him again for his great kindness to them. " We 
heard nothing more of our lost tickets," Mrs 
Wilton wrote ; " I suppose they must have been 
drowned in the Danube, and what would have 
become of us but for your timely aid I can't 

Well, of course, he had another engagement; 
but equally, of course, he could neglect it ; and he 
did. At the hour appointed he arrayed himself in 
accurate evening dress, stuck an orchid in his 


by Google 


buttonhole, as usual, and repaired to the Hotel du 
Louvre, where he was rather amused to find that 
he was expected to dine in the public restaurant 
attached to that establishment. The ladies were 
in travelling costume ; they had only a little hole 
of a sitting-room, Mrs Wilton said, and it was 
impossible to get attended to upstairs. Would he 
excuse their lack of ceremony ? 

He made some appropriate reply which took a 
long time to deliver, and which Mrs Wilton, who 
was garrulous and impatient, interrupted in the 
middle. Coresco was not greatly fascinated by 
Mrs Wilton, but, after all, it was not for the 
pleasure of seeing her that he was dining in that 
caravanserai, and she made up in cordiality what 
she wanted in style. Besides, he discovered before 
the evening was over that she had other merits of 
a more conspicuous kind. What French mother, 
what Roumanian mother, would have calmly an- 
nounced after dinner that she was going to write 
letters in her bedroom, and would have left her 
daughter to entertain a strange young man in the 
little darkening salon which overlooked the Rue de 
Rivoli and the stream of carriages and pedestrians 
there ? Yet that was what this amazing Mrs Wilton 
did ; and Coresco quite loved her for it. 

Nor did Miss Daisy appear to see anything odd 
or equivocal in the situation. Sitting by the open 


by Google 


window, with her elbow on the sill, she prattled 
away to her companion with as little reserve as if 
he had been her brother. She had a hundred 
questions to ask him about Paris — the Paris of 
the tourists, which was to him almost an unknown 
city — and when he confessed that he had only 
once in his life been inside the Louvre, she threw 
up her hands in utter astonishment. 

" Only once been in the Louvre ! and yet you 
say you live so much in Paris ? But what do you 
do with yourself, then, when you are here ? " 

" I dine ; I sleep ; I pay visits to my friends ; I 
go to the races when there are any," says Coresco, 
gravely enumerating such of his habits as could be 
communicated to a young lady. 

u And when you are not dining, or sleeping, or 
paying visits, and when there are no races ? " 

Coresco shrugged his shoulders. "There al- 
ways remains the play," he remarked, smiling. 

"But don't you think it is almost too hot for 
theatres at this time of year?" 

"I have used the wrong word, perhaps. You 
do not say the play ? What I mean is the cards — 
the gambling." 

Miss Wilton looked very grave over this ex- 
planation. She thought Prince Coresco would be 
better employed in familiarising himself with the 
works of art in the Louvre than in winning other 


by Google 


people's money or losing his own, and, with a very- 
pretty blush, she ventured to say as much. En- 
couraged by his silence and warming with her 
theme, she proceeded to read him a little lecture 
upon the duties and responsibilities of life. There 
is so much to do in the world, and there are so few 
people to do it ! Most men must toil from morning 
to night only to keep themselves alive; and the 
rich, who have time and money — how can they 
expect to be pardoned if they squander both? 
Even innocent, healthy pleasures, such as hunting 
and shooting, ought not to be enough to fill any- 
body's existence ; but gambling was not innocent ; 
it was very wicked. " It is almost like stealing, I 
think ! " Miss Daisy declared, trembling a little at 
her own audacity. 

Coresco listened to it all, amused, charmed, 
puzzled. "Since you deign to interest yourself 
in so unworthy a person, mademoiselle," said he, 
"I shall try to reform myself." 

He went away at last in a strange and novel 
frame of mind. Undoubtedly there were ways in 
which his life admitted of reform, and he deter- 
mined that reformed it should be ; but never before 
had it occurred to him that gambling could be 
"very wicked." He did not, indeed, think it 
so now; still he actually refrained from going 
to the club that night, for Miss Daisy's sake. 



by Google 


He went home, instead, and sat up until a late 
hour, placidly smoking cigar after cigar and re- 
capitulating every word of the colloquy in which 
he had taken so small a part. Fresh horizons 
seemed to have suddenly opened out before him ; 
in the course of a few hours a complete revolution 
had been effected in all his tastes and aspirations ; 
he felt that he was capable of promising never 
to touch a card again. Cards! — as if the stale 
attractions of the gaming-table could compare for 
one moment with the delight of accompanying 
Miss Wilton to the Sainte-Chapelle and the 
H6tel Cluny, as he had promised that he would 
do on the following day! He had, in short, 
fallen seriously in love for the first time in his 
life, and he was aware of the fact and rejoiced 
in it, as inexperienced persons frequently do. 

It was commonly reported at this time that 
Coresco had left Paris; there were even some 
knowing individuals who could tell where he had 
gone and who had gone with him; nobody be- 
lieved a preposterous legend to the effect that 
he had been seen driving down the Champs 
Elys€es in an open fiacre, sitting with his back 
to the horses and facing two English ladies of 
respectable but quite unfashionable exterior. Yet 
this phenomenon, and others not less marvellous, 
might have been witnessed by Prince Coresco's 



by Google 


friends, had they been in the habit of frequenting 
the places in which he spent three perfectly happy 
days. He would not have cared if they had seen 
him ; he had soared to heights which the shafts 
of ridicule could not reach; he asked nothing 
better than to be permitted to attend Miss Daisy 
on her sight-seeing expeditions, to carry her cloak 
or her sunshade for her, to listen to her prattle 
and bask in her smiles. She was very kind and 
gracious to him ; his attentions were evidently not 
displeasing to her; and as for Mrs Wilton, she 
was more than gracious. "1 have the mother 
on my side," Coresco thought, with modest exul- 
tation ; " that is half the battle." It was natural 
that he should think so, having but a very slight 
knowledge of the social peculiarities of our free 

But on the fourth day a cloud arose. Pre- 
senting himself at the Hotel du Louvre after 
breakfast, as usual, Coresco was disagreeably sur- 
prised to find a long-legged, broad-shouldered, fair- 
haired young man lounging upon the sofa in the 
little sitting-room and reading the Times. This 
intruder was made known to him as Mr Power ; 
the ladies called him Jack, and explained that he 
was a distant cousin of theirs. 

"Jack has come over from London to escort 
us home," Mrs Wilton said. "He thinks we 


by Google 


cannot take care of ourselves; though I don't 
know why he should think so, considering that 
we managed to travel through Palestine with only 
a dragoman to look after us." 

Coresco didn't know why either. He instantly 
conceived a strong prejudice against the officious 
Jack, which closer observation did not lessen, and 
which he had every reason to believe was returned 
with interest. If instinct had not told him at the 
first moment that Mr Power was his rival, circum- 
stances must in a very short time have revealed the 
fact to him. Their party that day consisted of 
four persons, and it was evident that all future ex- 
peditionary parties would be so constituted. Mr 
Power's company was not asked for ; he accorded 
it as a matter of course. This good-humoured, 
easy-going and not over-polished young Briton 
had a way of looking at Miss Wilton which made 
Coresco's blood boil. It was not mere admiration 
that his blue eyes expressed — that might have 
been pardoned — it was simple, unconcealed adora- 
tion, with a shade of reproach and wonder in it. 
When he turned towards the Roumanian his brows 
contracted, and he scowled with just as little 
attempt at disguise. It seemed clear that he 
had either received or thought he had received 
great encouragement at some previous time. 

What was consolatory was that his advances 


by Google 


certainly did not meet with any encouragement 
now. Miss Wilton would not walk with him, 
would hardly speak to him, and more than once 
in the course of the day Mrs Wilton pointedly 
begged him not to trouble himself with dancing 
attendance upon a couple of country cousins 
but to go away and see his friends. 

"I always understood that you had such a 
number of friends in Paris, Jack, and that you 
enjoyed yourself so much with them. What is 
that game which you used to be so much addicted 
to, and which is always giving rise to such un- 
pleasant scandals ? Baccarat ? Everybody has not 
the same tastes, fortunately. Prince Coresco, you, 
I am sure, are not a gambler." 

"Madam, I have abandoned the habit since a 
certain time," said Coresco gravely. 

Mr Power laughed, and Coresco turned upon 
him at once. "Monsieur finds that amusing?" 
he asked, with much urbanity. 

" Awfully amusing ; funniest thing I ever heard 
in my life ! " answered the Englishman. 

It was difficult to know what to make of such 
an unmannerly person; but, in the presence of 
ladies, it was perhaps better to take no further 
notice of him. The worst of it was that Mr 
Power did not seem to object to that mode of 
treatment. It was in vain that his cousins showed 


by Google 


him the cold shoulder; he was neither to be 
offended nor to be shaken off; and when Coresco 
left them in the evening he had to leave his rival 
in possession of the field. 

For two days this annoying state of things con- 
tinued. Coresco was not jealous, for Miss Wilton 
welcomed him with more than her usual warmth 
and lost no opportunity of snubbing the intrusive 
Jack; but, unfortunately, snubs did not prevent 
Jack from intruding and effectually putting a stop 
to those confidential and delightful conversations 
which good Mrs Wilton had never attempted to cut 
short. In those unprogressive lands between which 
and Western civilisation Prince Coresco's native 
country forms a sort of link, there is a very simple 
way of getting rid of obnoxious persons: you 
simply kill them or have them killed, and there is 
an end of it. Coresco — being so highly civilised 
— did not contemplate poisoning Mr Power's 
coffee; but he really thought that he would be 
doing Miss Wilton a service by freeing her from 
attentions which were obviously disagreeable to 
her ; and that was why, finding himself alone with 
his rival under the archway of the hotel one 
evening, after escorting the ladies home from the 
opera, he profited by that opportunity to stamp his 
heel with considerable force upon the Englishman's 


by Google 


Mr Power caught up his leg and made use of 
the national expletive. 

a Sir," said Coresco, " I do not permit any man 
to address such expressions to me." 

"I don't permit any man to tread on my 
toe/' returned the other, laughing, for he did not 
at first realise that the provocation had been 

A shrug of Coresco's shoulders enlightened him. 
u Oh," said he, " you did it on purpose, did you ? 
All right, my friend ; then I'll see if I can't make 
you swear too." 

Thereupon he raised his hand, which was a large 
and powerful one, and, bringing it down with a 
resounding crash upon the crown of Coresco's tall 
hat, buried that gentleman's head in the ruin 

It is not everyone who, after being bonneted, 
can struggle out of his headgear and bow with 
dignity; but Prince Coresco accomplished that 
feat and did not swear. "You shall hear from 
me to-morrow, sir," was all that he said, as he 
majestically withdrew. 

Mr Power walked upstairs sniggering to himself. 
" I think I made my friend look rather a fool for 
once," he muttered gleefully. u What a pity that 
Daisy wasn't there to see him ! " 

Coresco would have been inexpressibly shocked 


by Google 


if he had heard that ejaculation. To desire that 
a lady should be the spectator of a vulgar brawl ! 
— atrocious ! But Jack Power was not an ultra- 
refined person ; he was only a very ordinary, honest, 
and somewhat devil-may-care young Englishman, 
who had fallen desperately in love with his pretty 
cousin during the preceding summer, and who, 
after some excuse had been given him for believing 
that his affection was returned, had been dismissed 
by a council of his cousin's family, upon the plea 
that his means were insufficient and his manner of 
life unsatisfactory. It was probably as much to 
remove her daughter from his vicinity as for any 
other reason that Mrs Wilton had decided to spend 
the winter in the Holy Land. But Jack, in no 
wise discouraged, had changed his manner of life, 
had broken with sundry undesirable associates, and, 
by means of diligence, together with a little of 
such nepotism as is possible in these days, had 
obtained promotion in his calling, which was that 
of a Government clerk. Thus, confident in his 
personal merits and improved position, he had 
hastened over to Paris to meet his cousin on her 
return from those oriental wanderings, and had 
found her altered, distant and, to all appearance, 
dazzled by the cheap glitter of a semi-oriental 
prince. If Mr Power was in Prince Coresco's 
way, it is evident that Prince Coresco was not 


by Google 


less in Mr Power's way. The latter, however, 
being an Englishman, had not thought of getting 
rid of his rival by the simple expedient of treading 
upon his toe and then running him through the 
body ; still, now that the chance of thus disposing 
of a pestilent fellow had been given to him, he 
was not unwilling to take advantage of it. Of 
the art of fencing he had that complete ignorance 
which must always be accounted as bliss when com- 
pared with partial knowledge; he imagined that 
one man with a sword in his hand is about as good 
as another similarly circumstanced, and had a com- 
fortable conviction that weight must tell in the 
long run. This extraordinary young gentleman 
went peacefully to sleep with the idea that he 
could impale Prince Coresco, like a beetle upon a 
pin, if he chose, and his only fear was lest he 
should hurt the man mortally in so doing ; for, of 
course, he did not want to kill him. 

Coresco, on the other hand, though he did not 
propose to kill the Englishman, would have done 
so, at a pinch, without any scruple at all. Why 
not ? In a fair fight, one or other combatant must 
needs fall ; and really there seemed to be no reason 
for supposing that Mr Power's death would inflict 
any loss upon civilisation or humanity. What 
changed his point of view and caused him no slight 
perplexity was the discovery that a fight with Mr 


by Google 


Power would not, and could not, be in any sense 
a fair fight. 

He found this out on the following afternoon, 
in a secluded, sylvan glade of the forest of Saint- 
Germain, which had been selected as suitable for 
the discharging of the business in hand. The 
preliminaries had passed off rapidly and with very 
little discussion. Power, who had numerous 
acquaintances in Paris, had easily found a couple 
of seconds; and as apologies were out of the 
question, no hitch or obstacle had occurred to 
delay the merry meeting. But what is to be done 
with a man who, the moment that his weapon has 
been crossed with yours, plunges at you like a 
born lunatic, in total disregard of all rule and 
science? Coresco had no difficulty in parrying 
his adversary's furious onslaught ; he would have 
had little or no difficulty in terminating the conflict 
in the first two minutes ; yet he hesitated to take 
advantage of his superior skill. It is probably 
much the same thing to a bird to be shot sitting 
or flying ; but it is not the same thing to the man 
who shoots the bird ; and little as Coresco cared 
about prolonging Mr Power's life, he felt that he 
would be guilty of nothing less than murder if 
he slew one who was so completely at his mercy. 
Half vexed, half inclined to laugh, he contemplated 
his opponent's fantastic gambols and awaited his 


by Google 


opportunity. He would give the fellow a prick 
in the arm and let him go, he thought ; the whole 
thing was an absurd farce, and he regretted haying 
brought it about. 

But, alas ! victory does not always declare her- 
self for the strong or the scientific; improbabilities 
are continually happening, and combats have been 
won against overwhelming odds again and again 
since David laid the champion of the Philistines 
low with a pebble. These things have to be 
accounted for in some way, and when the strong 
man is beaten by the feeble one, we are generally 
told that the former has courted misadventure by 
despising his enemy. It may be that Coresco fell 
into this fatal error, or again it may be that he 
was really confused by a method of attack which 
resembled nothing that he had ever seen or heard 
of before. In any case, it came to pass that, 
hastily parrying a wild lunge of Mr Power's, he 
caught the point of the Englishman's weapon on 
the inside of his hand, which was instantly trans- 
fixed by it. 

This perforce put an end to the encounter, 
since Coresco could now no longer hold a sword. 
While the doctor was bandaging his wound for 
him, the Englishman came up and blurted out, 
rather awkwardly, "I hope I haven't hurt you 


by Google 


Coresco, always urbane and self-possessed, yet 
with a slight cloud upon his brow, bowed and 
replied, " It is a nothing ; " and so the foes parted. 

That evening there walked into a well-known 
Parisian club a gloomy personage, with his arm 
in a sling, whose entrance gave the signal for a 
general outburst of amiable raillery. " Heaven be 
praised! our Coresco is restored to us, alive, 
though wounded. Is it permitted to expose one- 
self to such dangers on the eve of one's marriage ?" 
— "Tell me, my dear friend, must we go to the 
Hotel de Ville or to the Protestant temple to see 
the last of you?" — "Ah, he is sly, that old 
Coresco! He discovers that in England there is 
no love without marriage ; but he does not let 
himself be disconcerted by such a trifle. He gets 
somebody to fight with him ; he receives an un- 
fortunate wound; and, * Mademoiselle,' says he, 
c unhappily, for the moment, I have no hand to 
offer you ; be contented with the knowledge that 
you possess my heart.' " 

Why had Coresco, who knew very well that 
his seconds were not the men to keep so good a 
joke as his eccentric duel secret, laid himself open 
to these impertinences ? For the simple reason that 
he could not show himself at the Hotel du Louvre 
in his maimed state without entering into explana- 
tions, and that it was perfectly impossible for him 


by Google 


to sit at home doing nothing. After all, he was 
not easily put out of countenance, and two hands 
are not required in order to play baccarat. He 
gave himself leave to break through his recently 
formed resolution for that once. Even if Miss 
Daisy could know how he was employed, she 
would acknowledge that, under the circumstances, 
he had no alternative. 

Baccarat, though it had lost its old charm for 
him, was all very well as a means of whiling the 
night away ; but what was to be done with the 
long hours of daylight ? 

This was what Coresco asked himself ruefully 
on the morrow, and so unable was he to solve the 
problem that towards five o'clock he gave it up in 
despair and had himself driven to the Hotel du 
Louvre. He was not sure that it was in the 
best possible taste to appear in his disabled 
condition before the lady for whose sake he had 
allowed himself to be disabled ; but there really 
seemed to be no help for it. He must carry his 
arm in a sling for the next ten days at least, and 
in less than ten days Miss Wilton would have left 

He thought himself fortunate when he found 
the object of his respectful devotion alone; but 
his satisfaction was short-lived. 

"Prince Coresco," she exclaimed, starting up 


by Google 


with flashing eyes as he entered, "I hope — I do 
hope that you are ashamed of yourself! You, 
who, of course, like all foreigners, are an accom- 
plished swordsman, to pick a quarrel with my poor 
cousin, who had done nothing to offend you, when 
you must have known perfectly well that English- 
men never fight duels ! It was very wrong of him 
to accept your challenge; but he says that he 
could not submit to be called a coward, and I 
suppose no man would. And you pretended to 
be our friend ! " 

"But, mademoiselle," pleaded the astonished 
Coresco, " since Mr Power has thought fit to take 
the unheard-of course of informing you that he 
crossed swords with me yesterday " 

u He did no such thing!" interrupted Miss 
Wilton indignantly. u It was the hotel porter who 
told our maid what had become of you both ; and 
you may imagine what an afternoon we spent ! " 

44 1 regret it infinitely, and I shall have two 
words to say to the porter, who must be quite 
unfit for his situation. But I was about to remark 
that, since you are aware that a duel has occurred, 
you must also be aware that your cousin has known 
very well how to defend himself." 

4 'That only shows that Providence protected 
him ; it does not prove that you had any wish to 
spare his life. For Jack there was some excuse — 


by Google 


more than one excuse, indeed; bat I cannot see 
that there was the least excuse in the world for 
you. What possible reason could you have for 
fighting my cousin ? " 

"Ah, mademoiselle! — do you not know?" ex- 
claimed Coresco. "Have you not understood that 
I love you? Pardon me that I so far disregard 
the proprieties as to speak to you in this way. I 
should, I am aware, have addressed myself in the 
first instance to your honoured mamma ; but I can- 
not endure to see you angry with me. Pardon 
me, also I pray you, my unfortunate affair with 
your cousin. I was, no doubt, in the wrong; I 
ought to have remembered that he was of the 
family ; but I saw in him only a pretendant who 
was annoying to you, and " 

" Oh, but indeed no ! " interrupted Miss Wilton ; 
"he was not annoying at all." She paused, and 
then, with a considerable access of colour, added : 
" Perhaps I had better tell you at once that I am 
engaged to be married to him." 

Poor Coresco fell somewhat heavily from the 
clouds. But he did not, even in this moment of 
cruel disenchantment, lose his sense of what was 

"In that case, mademoiselle," said he, with a 
low bow, u it only remains for me to offer you my 
sincere felicitations and retire." 


by Google 


But perhaps his face was more eloquent than 
his tongue, or it may be that Miss Wilton, being 
herself in love, was quick at detecting symptoms 
of a genuine case of that malady in another. She 
stepped hastily forward and intercepted him as he 
was making for the door. 

"I am very sorry," she said simply; "I didn't 

know — I never supposed " She held out her 

hand to him, looking at him with soft, pitying 

"Dear Miss Daisy," answered Coresco, "it is I 
who have been unpardonably stupid, and you have 
nothing to be sorry for. As for me, I shall be 
glad all my life that I have known you. I shall 
never marry, and I shall never cease to love you. 
You will not mind my saying that, as it is so very 
unlikely that we shall meet again." 

"But I hope we shall often meet again, and I 
don't at all like you to say such things," protested 
the girl. "It would be dreadful if it were true; 
but how can it be true ? In one short week " 

"One short week, mademoiselle, may easily 
count for more than ten years. During ten years 
it has never happened to me to fall in love; I 
thought even that I was not capable of love ; but 
in a week you have shown me my mistake. I do 
not complain ; it is not to everybody that a week 
of happiness is accorded." 


by Google 


The rejoinder which Miss Wilton was beginning 
to make to this somewhat lackadaisical speech was 
nipped in the bud by the abrupt entrance of her 
mother, who, taking in the situation at a glance, 
groaned aloud. "Oh, Daisy, you foolish, foolish 
girl ! " she exclaimed. 

Miss Daisy promptly turned and fled — which 
was, perhaps, the very best thing that she could 
have done — and Mrs Wilton, relieved of a presence 
which might have been a little disconcerting, 
plumped down into the nearest arm-chair and 
groaned again. 

"All your fault !" was her first intelligible 
ejaculation. " You had my best wishes, Fm sure 
— and, really, I thought she had got over that 
silly infatuation about Jack. And everything 
seemed to be going so smoothly ! But then you 
must needs go and spoil it all by fighting a duel 
with a man whom you ought never to have noticed. 
It would have been so easy to leave him alone! 
All yesterday afternoon we were expecting to see 
his lifeless body carried in upon a shutter, and I 
need hardly say that, when he made his appear- 
ance, safe and sound, Daisy simply hurled herself 
into his arms. Well, not literally perhaps, but it 
comes to the same thing. Thanks to you, they 
had a full explanation in the course of the evening, 
and he convinced her that he had been true to her 


by Google 


during their separation — which she seems to have 

"But, madam," said Coresco, a little puzzled, 
"if you disapprove of this marriage, surely you, 
as Miss Wilton's mother " 

u Not a bit of it ! " broke in the old lady. "In 
England we can't prevent our daughters from 
marrying as they please, unless they choose a man 
who is positively disreputable or impossibly poor — 
and not always then. When Jack first proposed 
he was very badly off; but he has obtained an 
increase of salary since, and Daisy has a little of 
her own, and — and so there is no more to be said. 
He is not a bad young man in his way ; but — well, 
I wish things could have fallen out otherwise!" 
sighed Mrs Wilton in conclusion, meaning, perhaps, 
that she would have liked her daughter to be a 

Coresco got away as soon as he could. He was 
bitterly disappointed, but he bore his disappoint- 
ment with a good deal of dignity. On the 
following day he called to make his adieux, and 
having been reconciled with his successful rival, 
who displayed much more embarrassment upon 
the occasion than he did, left Paris a few hours 

Miss Wilton, on her wedding-day, wore in her 
hair some magnificent diamond pins, fashioned in 


by Google 


the shape of marguerites, which were not the gift 
of the bridegroom. The donor of these jewels 
is no longer to be met with in the gay city where 
he purchased them, nor has he availed himself of 
Mrs Power's cordial invitation to visit her in her 
English home. He is at present residing on his 
Roumanian estates, the improvement of which 
by scientific agricultural methods appears to occupy 
all his attention. He has confided to his mother 
that he is a changed man, that life has become 
serious to him, that he recognises its duties and 
has ceased to care for its pleasures — that he has, 
in short, loved once and can never love again. 
He has further made known to her his unalterable 
purpose of remaining a bachelor all his days ; but 
that is a bold assertion for any man to make 
in countries where maternal influence counts for 
more than it does in our own; and Princess 
Coresco, who is a wise woman and knows her own 
power, is content to smile at it silently. 


by Google 





by Google 


by Google 


by Google 

101 063883043 


Digitized by UOOQ IC